The man involved in what prosecutor’s call one of southern Nevada’s most gruesome murders, will stay behind bars. Shane Johnson asked the Nevada Board of Pardons Thursday for a commuted or reduced sentence, but was denied.
He pleaded guilty in 2004 for his role in the murder of 18-year-old Jared Whaley. The victim’s family was at the hearing.
Family members describe Jared Whaley as fun, smart and good-hearted. They’re pleased with the board’s decision but they know nothing will bring back their loved one.
“It’s been 15 years, but it feels like yesterday,” said Patricia Knight, Jared Whaley’s mother.
The emotions are still raw for Knight. Her son, Jared, was brutally murdered in the fall of 2003. Investigators say Shane Johnson was part of a group of young men who killed Whaley, beating him until he was unrecognizable.
According to police reports, Johnson used a stun gun to first shock Whaley and then another teen shot him. All of this — over drugs.
The 18-year-old was left in a shallow grave just outside Boulder City.
“A loss of a child is the worst thing you can go through,” Knight said. “It’s just an empty spot in your heart. It’s just very hard on everybody, the family, friends.”
Knight spoke Wednesday in front of the Nevada State Board of Pardons commissioners asking that Johnson be kept behind bars.
After pleading guilty as a teen, Johnson was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years. He is requesting a reduced sentence, of 10 years to life in prison. Johnson’s defense attorney, Kristina Wildeveld, says he deserves a second chance.
“Nothing takes away from the horrific nature of this crime and that is not the reason we are here today. As for the reason we are here today, is because of who Shane Johnson is today, what he’s done with himself over the last 15 years,” Kristina Wildeveld said.
While in prison, Johnson has maintained a clean record, earned his high school diploma and has been trained in skilled labor.
“There is honestly nothing more important in my life than seeing my son free. I’m so impressed with how he went from a frightened teenager to the man that he is today,” said Ronald Johnson, Shane Johnson’s father.
The board did not commute Johnson’s sentence. It was a victory for Whaley’s family. But the pain is still there.
“It hurts. It still affects me to this day. Now, I have children and they see that kid in the family photos and he’s not there, they want to know who he is, so we have to go and explain who he is,” said Kyle Knight, Jared Whaley’s brother.
“I don’t have my son, he’s got his life. I know he feels remorse, but it’s not helping anything,” Patricia Knight said.
Johnson will be officially be eligible for parole in 2024. Whaley’s family says they will speak out at every hearing to make sure Johnson stays behind bars.