PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A man who was convicted of murder for the 1998 rape and killing of 15-year-old Heather Fraser will spend the rest of his life in jail.
Martin Johnson was convicted of murder by a Washington County jury last week and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on Thursday.
Johnson was previously convicted of Heather’s murder in 2001, however, that conviction was later overturned due to the “inadequate representation” of the defendant.
“He lost all his appeals but there’s this process called post-conviction relief in Oregon that claims your attorneys should have done a better job for you,” said Washington County Chief Deputy District Attorney Bracken McKey. “He was successful in that portion of the case claiming that his attorneys should have done a better job for him then what they did in the first trial. He was awarded a new trial.”
In this most recent case, he was charged with 8 counts of murder. Under the new guidelines of Senate Bill 1013, the death penalty was taken off the table.
During the 8-week trial, prosecutors asserted that he drugged, raped, then killed the teenage victim and later dumped her body in the Columbia River.
In a unanimous decision, the jury found Johnson guilty of all 8 counts of first-degree murder.
“The judge made findings that allowed the defendant to get a true life sentence and then imposed the true life sentence,” said McKey. “Before he left … he said [to Heather’s mother], ‘This man is solely responsible for your daughter’s death’ and pointed to the defendant.”
McKey described a touching display in the courtroom near the conclusion of the trial.
“The jurors came back and surrounded Ronda — the victim’s mother — and said they were here to support her,” he said. “And right before sentencing, another man walked in and he was a juror from the first trial and he wanted to come back and show his support for the victim as well. I’ve never seen that before; it was a powerful moment.”
Heather’s mother, Ronda Fraser, told KOIN 6 News her daughter’s murder was “a nightmare no parent should have to go through” and she hopes to avoid the pain of a third trial.
“We shouldn’t have been through a second trial but in a way it did well because I don’t remember the first one — I was still really torn up over my daughter,” she said.
Going through a second trial gave her time to take everything in, she said. And she’s satisfied with Johnson’s life sentence.
“We never wanted him to die on death row,” Ronda said. “It makes my heart warm knowing he can’t do this to another family.”
Heather’s sister, Elizabeth Fraser, felt the same way.
“I feel like I can take a deep breath for the first time in a month,” she said. “I am super happy with the decision. It was the best outcome we could have received.”
Ronda said the conclusion has brought her relief and she knows her daughter is proud of her for getting through it.
“I can breathe and now I can move on with my life,” she said. “I can move on; that’s all I’ve wanted to do all these years.”