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Mentally ill defendant sentenced in homeless man’s slaying

Updated September 9, 2021 - 3:27 pm

A Las Vegas man who pleaded “guilty but mentally ill” will serve 18 years to life in prison for killing a homeless person and drinking his blood.

Before his sentencing Thursday, Jarrid Johnson, 28, apologized to his victim’s family and District Judge Michelle Leavitt for his crime.

“I wasn’t in my right mind,” he said during the virtual court hearing. “I apologize for that, and it will never happen again.”

On Dec. 21, 2018, Las Vegas police found 63-year-old Ralph Franzello’s body at the end of a cul-de-sac on Pinecrest Street, near the intersection of East Flamingo and South Sandhill roads.

In court documents, Detective Brian Kowalski detailed a slew of injuries to Franzello’s head, eyes, ears and torso, including a long laceration that stretched from the base of his throat to the bottom of his abdomen. Some of his organs had been removed, and his belongings were strewn nearby and in a shopping cart.

Police had few leads but determined that Franzello was homeless and slept in the area. On Christmas Eve days later, Johnson turned himself in.

He told police that he had stripped off his clothes and was rummaging through Franzello’s belongings when Franzello woke up and brandished a pocketknife, which Johnson used to stab Franzello.

He then stuck his head into the chest cavity to drink his blood, records show.

Surveillance in the area corroborated Johnson’s story, and while reviewing footage with detectives, according to a police report, “Johnson identified himself as the person on the video.”

Johnson told detectives that he took Franzello’s blanket and hat, walked to the parking lot of a nearby church, climbed into a dumpster and went to sleep.

Using the blood on his hands, he wrote “8” on the door of the church.

The next morning, he “walked to the mountain,” where he was told by God that he should turn himself in, Kowalski previously testified.

Johnson pleaded guilty but mentally ill in June to murder with a deadly weapon.

As part of the plea deal, he must be separated from the general prison population until a doctor finds that he does not require acute mental health care.

If he is placed in the general population, he still must be allowed treatment, the document states.

His public defender, Anna Clark, said Thursday that her client had experienced a rapid onset of psychosis and schizophrenia shortly before the killing.

“He realized that it wasn’t a bad dream, that he had really done this, that this was something terrible, and he needed to turn himself in,” Clark said. “It’s very likely Mr. Franzello’s family would never have known what had happened to him if Jarrid hadn’t walked into the Clark County Detention Center and confessed.”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on Twitter.

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