By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Child killer pleads to reduced charge
Placeholder Image
Facing the possibility of life plus 30 years for murder, Cortez A. Johnson accepted a plea agreement that reduced charges against him to one count of voluntary manslaughter.
He was originally charged with murder in for the death of a child three years ago in Hinesville.
The plea took place in front of Liberty County Superior Court Judge Robert Russell Monday morning.
Under the plea agreement Johnson was sentenced to 20 years. He will serve 10 years in prison followed by 10 years of probation.
“It was a hell of a deal, Johnson’s attorney Richard Darden said. “It really was.”
Johnson originally faced one count murder, one count felony murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of cruelty to children in the first degree for his involvement in the death of Montez Lassiter.
Count one was reduced to voluntary manslaughter and the rest of the charges are not prosecuted.
The child was a month shy of his third birthday when he was killed.
Hinesville Police officers reportedly found Johnson performing CPR when they responded to a 911 call of a child not breathing at the Cypress Bend Mobile Home Park off Highway 196 in Hinesville shortly before 9 p.m. on March 6, 2006.
Johnson originally claimed the child jumped from his bunk bed and died as a result of the injuries.
HPD Maj. Thomas Cribbs said his investigation and the autopsy led his department to take out a warrant against Johnson, alleging “the child died of blunt force trauma to the abdomen.”
The Savannah office of the GBI confirmed the child died as a result of injuries to the stomach in its autopsy report.
Originally denied bond, at a second  hearing in May 2006 Johnson was granted a bond of $40,000 cash or $80,000 property. He posted a cash bond through MacCauley Bonding Co. in Savannah.
Later Johnson was briefly deployed to Iraq.
After returning to Hinesville he was pulled over for weaving across the roadway on March 27, 2008, by a LCSO deputy. Johnson tested positive for alcohol and told the deputy he was out on bond for murder. Within minutes HPD officers arrived on scene along with ADA Mark Hendrix, who obtained a special presentment bench warrant for Johnson.
He was taken to Liberty County Jail.
His bond was later revoked and, according to Darden, he spent eight months in jail awaiting trial, which was originally scheduled to start in April.
Sign up for our e-newsletters