By Keri Blakinger, January 3, 2017
Victim was still in Christmas pajamas when police recovered corpse
Shaun Hardy was arrested after remains were found in his home.
When police found the body of slain League City mother Anne-Christine Johnson, she was still wearing her Christmas pajamas.
Her ex-husband – with whom she’d had a long and volatile relationship – confessed to the brutal murder, telling police he stabbed then tried to suffocate her because he “wanted to see” her die, according to court documents made public on Tuesday.
Shaun Hardy, 32, admitted the killing after breaking down in sobs when police arrived Friday to search his suburban Galveston County home.
He was arrested after officers found a body — who the medical examiner later confirmed was his ex wife and the 30-year-old mother of two — stashed in the garage.
The fatal outburst comes amid a statewide rise in deadly domestic violence. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of women in Texas killed by male intimate partners jumped 20 percent, according to the Texas Council on Family Violence.
After three weeks of searching, local law enforcement finally realized last Friday that Johnson’s troubled relationship had turned deadly when League City police showed up at her ex-husband’s home with a search warrant to retrieve cell phones.
Hardy started sobbing as police searched the house, according to the probable cause affidavit.
When a detective drew near the garage, he noticed a “strong odor of decaying flesh” that only grew stronger as he opened the garage door.
Once inside the garage, the detective spotted an object – about the size of a human body – covered in dark plastic and duct tape.
Splayed around it were a number of scented candles.
Officers immediately put an end to their hunt and got a second search warrant.
At first, Hardy refused to talk to police without a lawyer present. But then he changed his mind and agreed to a recorded interview at the League City Police Department.
Hardy told officers that he threw his ex on the ground as hard as he could and left her there bleeding.
When Johnson held a knife to her chest as if to stab herself, Hardy kicked the hilt so hard he dented his shoe, according to the affidavit.
As Johnson coughed and gurgled, Hardy threw a Kroger bag over her head to put her “out of her misery.”
When police finally found her body, Johnson was still clothed in Christmas pajamas and had the plastic bag over her head.
The medical examiner determined that she had two puncture wounds in the neck and “a wound that could have been caused by a knife in her chest.”
Police said Johnson was probably killed on or about Dec. 8 – the day she went missing.
Hardy was arrested Friday and initially charged with felony tampering with evidence. Later, prosecutors added a murder charge.
He is currently being held in the Galveston County Jail on $500,000 bond.
After his arrest, the couple’s 5-year-old autistic son was handed over to a family member. Johnson’s older child was already in the care of his father, her first husband.
But long before the shocking murder charge, court documents show that the two had a fraught relationship.
In 2014, Hardy filed for divorce and was awarded primary custody of their son Roland.
The following year, Johnson alleged that Hardy choked her, pistol-whipped her and tried to drug her during a June 2015 fight, according to court documents.
“Shaun Philip Hardy’s violent behavior against me has gotten so bad that he has assaulted me with a shotgun, threatened me with a knife, and choked me,” Johnson wrote when filing for a protective order after the blow-up.
“I am afraid that without this protective order, Shaun Philip Hardy will continue to hurt me or even kill me in the future.”
Johnson’s court filings came on the heels of a similar set of paperwork from Hardy.
A judge granted both protective orders but canceled them before the end of the next month.
Now, she’s become one a growing number of women whose current or former domestic partner turned into their accused killer.
In 2015, at least 158 women were killed by an intimate male partner, TCFV data shows.
“It’s the highest number we’ve ever seen in terms of fatalities,” said the council’s director of policy, Aaron Setliff.
More than three-quarters of those fatalities were in a home and 37 percent of the victims were women who – like Johnson – had taken steps to end a problem relationship.
“There is a misperception that once they leave they’re safe,” said Sherri Kendall, CEO of a Houston-based non-profit called Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse.
Part of the problem could also be a lack of education and resources.
“There were 72,000 people served in domestic violence programs last year – and a turnaway rate of about 39 percent,” Setliff said. Oftentimes, that’s simply due to a lack of beds, he said.
“As long as we have this turnaway number there’s not as much of a safety valve as we would want,” he said. “This is the highest fatalities number we’ve seen, so we’re trying to think about why we’re in this place.”
Numbers for Help:
AVDA 24-hour Crisis Hotline: 800-355-8547
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE