Wisconsin man convicted in taxi driver homicide

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin man who led police on a chase in a stolen cab with the 79-year-old driver’s body in the trunk has been convicted of reduced charges.

Timmy Johnson Jr., 26, pleaded no contest to reckless homicide, kidnapping and armed robbery with use of force. He was accused in the June 12 robbery and death of Platteville taxi driver Merle Forbes.

Several hours after his release from the Grant County Jail, Johnson was high on PCP when he called a cab near the University of Platteville to take him a secluded area, where he planned to kill himself, according to police. Johnson attacked Forbes, whom he had stiffed on a $90 cab ride months earlier, with a stolen knife because he was worried the driver would harm him, a criminal complaint said. Instead of taking Forbes to the hospital, Johnson decided to place him in the trunk.

Johnson got behind the wheel and headed toward Boscobel, and then eventually stopped for pizza and water, which he paid for with the victim’s money, according to the complaint. Johnson could hear Forbes moaning in the trunk as he continued driving toward La Crosse, stopping three times to give the dying man fresh air.

Johnson fled from a La Crosse police officer who had checked the vehicle’s registration and noticed the driver had been reported missing by family members about six hours earlier, police said. The ensuing police chase reached speeds of 115 mph before Johnson hit an SUV, rolled and come to a stop in Holmen, according to authorities.

Upon his arrest, Johnson told police he was planning on crashing the taxi into a wall in hopes of committing suicide and he forgot Forbes was in the trunk, police said.

The La Crosse Tribune reports the six felony charges that were dismissed will still be considered during Johnson’s sentencing at the end of January. He’s currently serving a 10-year sentence for violating his probation when he committed unrelated crimes.