Johnson, Gary Donald

Murdered: 1990-11-08

Gary D. Johnson, 47, was born and raised in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. He attended college in Bloomsburg, PA graduating with an accounting degree. Very sports minded, Gary played semi-pro baseball and  at one point  was signed by the Detroit Tigers organization. Gary served three years in the army working in Staff Communications. While stationed at the Pentagon he met his future wife, Charlotte, a Coloradoan who was working for the FBI in Washington. After discharge from service, Gary went to work for Geico in Maryland. When the company relocated their headquarters to Colorado in 1970, Gary & Charlotte (and now son, Ted) moved too.

Charlotte describes Gary as a free spirit who didnt like being tied down to a desk. He sought financial independence. But in 1972 (the year daughter Michelle was born) their adjusted gross income was only $3,000. They got their break in 1974 when the opportunity presented itself to buy three acres of land in Lakewood that was zoned for townhomes. But this opportunity carried with itincredible challenges. The little family lived in a two bedroom shack on the premises of the project. Over the next 15 years, they built 350 townshomes. At the outset, Gary still worked as an accountant, putting in ten hours per day, then met people at the project in the evening and on weekends. That year, he accepted an additional job teaching accounting at Metro State. By 1976, their adjusted gross income had grown to $350,000! But the bank took most of it to pay off construction loans.

Stress wore on their marriage. Gary & Charlotte separated, then got back together in 1977. They built several more projects including 110 units in Lakewood and 300 units in Littleton. Gary & Charlotte bought Heritage Square Shopping Center for $10 million in 1986. A few months later, the center went into receivership after a rent strike and disputes over maintenance. Friends saw Johnson as an unflaggingly competitive and entrepreneurial spirit. Even after bankruptcy and a divorce, he was still working on a comeback project, a set of condominiums in Arapahoe County.

Friends say Johnson’s dream was to own a professional football team. The closest he came was founding a girl’s softball league called the Colorado Expos.

During the housing boom of the early ’80s, Johnson often dug into his own pocket to fund a league in which his daughter played. When times turned hard, the league turned to bingo to raise funds.

Friends said Johnson would work late into the night on the bingo operation then show up early the next morning for softball practice.

The day Gary D. Johnson died, November 8, 1990, he lived the way he always had: real estate deals to push, people to see. One of them may have been his killer. Arapahoe County investigators tried to reconstruct how the once- wealthy Lakewood developer spent his final hours before his execution-style slaying in a field off E. Arapahoe Road in Arapahoe County. Two sets of footprints took a meandering path on the soft earth to the cottonwood, where a teen-ager found Johnson’s warm body. He had been shot once in the back of the head. Investigators did not find the bullet. This crime remains unsolved. If you have any information regarding this crime, please contact Investigator Bruce Isaacson at 720-874-4022.

Name: Gary Donald Johnson       Date of Birth: 1943-01-09