Colorado Man Found Guilty of Murdering 17-Year-Old Walgreens Co-worker

Colorado Springs, Colorado – In a solemn courtroom, a poignant and symbolic act of remembrance unfolded as Joshua Johnson was found guilty of murdering 17-year-old Walgreens co-worker Riley Whitelaw in June 2022.

At the center of the courtroom sat three items: an empty vase, a bag filled with purple stones, and a small bundle of sunflowers. These items held special significance, explained Riley Whitelaw’s cousin, Jermey Model, shortly after the verdict was delivered. There were 42 purple stones inside the bag, each symbolizing one of the 42 stab wounds inflicted upon Whitelaw by Johnson. Model elucidated that every person delivering an impact statement would take a handful of these stones and place them in the vase. The purpose was to “fill it with kindness,” honoring Whitelaw’s love for art and commemorating her memory.

Joshua Johnson, 29, remained motionless and unresponsive as he received the guilty verdict, which took the jury only one hour to reach—a remarkably brief deliberation.

Nine friends and family members of Whitelaw followed, each delivering heartfelt impact statements. Some expressed their anger towards Johnson, while others cherished the memory of the kind and empathetic young girl he had taken from them.

“You are a monster. I can’t even speak your name,” declared Kelly Whitelaw, Riley Whitelaw’s aunt, addressing Johnson. “Riley mattered—her life mattered.”

Jenn Swain, the mother of Whitelaw’s friend Jordan Swain, expressed profound sadness, saying, “My daughter lost her best friend … I have never felt a more profound sadness.”

Chris Johnson, Whitelaw’s stepfather, spoke of the profound impact Riley had on his life: “Riley was the daughter I never had.”

After each friend and family member concluded their statements, they added a handful of stones to the vase, slowly filling it with the color purple—a poignant tribute to Riley Whitelaw’s memory.

The trial, which lasted five days, saw the prosecution argue that Joshua Johnson had stabbed and killed Riley Whitelaw on June 11, 2022, after she had rejected his romantic advances and become involved with a new boyfriend, also employed at Walgreens. The prosecution presented surveillance footage showing Johnson obstructing security camera views in the stockroom—a deliberate act, according to multiple Walgreens employees. They argued that it was evidence that Johnson had planned to kill Whitelaw and had taken steps to conceal the crime.

Forensic evidence, including Whitelaw’s blood on Johnson’s clothing and Johnson’s DNA under Whitelaw’s fingernails, further supported the prosecution’s case. Testimonies from friends and family portrayed Whitelaw as uncomfortable with Johnson’s advances at work, evidenced by voice messages she had sent, referring to him as “pedo-Josh” and criticizing his behavior as “gross” and “unprofessional.”

Johnson’s defense countered that Whitelaw’s complaints did not express fear of Johnson but discomfort around him. They maintained that Johnson had fled the scene out of fear for his own safety after he and Whitelaw were attacked by an unidentified assailant wearing a black mask.

The jury rejected Johnson’s defense and found him guilty of first-degree murder, sentencing him to life in prison, in accordance with Colorado law.

At a brief press conference following the sentencing hearing, 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen remarked, “Evil absolutely exists in this world, and it preys on the life of innocence and goodness that exists in people like Riley Whitelaw. Riley is not forgotten, and today she received the justice that Colorado law can provide.”

Riley’s mother, Courtenay Whitelaw, delivered the final victim impact statement. She spoke of her enduring love for her daughter and her determination not to let Johnson take away the love she had for Riley. Courtenay Whitelaw, standing in an Air Academy color guard jacket, lauded her daughter’s courage and bravery.

“I pray the vileness of your acts haunts you for the rest of your life. How could you be so rage-filled by someone so kind?” she said. “I love Riley, and her death will not diminish that or take that away from me or her.”

Courtenay Whitelaw concluded her statement by honoring her daughter’s courage and quiet leadership, adding sunflowers to the vase filled with purple stones—a touching tribute to a life taken too soon.

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