Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson

A 24-year-old Reeds man stands charged with gunning down two people at a residence in Avilla after they purportedly informed him that they had killed his girlfriend, whose burned body was recovered southwest of Joplin.

Newton County sheriff's deputies responded at 4:10 p.m. Saturday to a report of a body dumped in a ditch near State Line Road and Angus Drive, where they located the charred corpse of 25-year-old Joplin-area resident Brylee O'Banion.

O'Banion's boyfriend, Kevin C. Johnson, was taken into custody Monday in Jasper County as the lone suspect in a subsequent double homicide in Avilla.

Jasper County deputies dispatched about 5:30 p.m. Sunday to a residence at 255 Greenfield St. in Avilla discovered the bodies of occupant Mason McClure, 34, and Nicole Hodges, 34, of Joplin, lying in pools of blood inside the home. Autopsies performed Monday determined that both died of gunshot wounds.

Investigators arrested Johnson early Monday morning in connection with the slayings. Two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action were filed on Johnson later in the day, and he remains in custody at the Jasper County Jail with no bond set.

A probable-cause affidavit filed with the charges states that Johnson went to the address in Avilla on Saturday to see his girlfriend, O'Banion, and was told by McClure that McClure and Hodges had killed her.

The document further states: "At this time, Johnson stated that he was asked to go to the garage and help McClure with something. Johnson drew a firearm he had taken from his father's residence and started shooting. McClure was shot in the back and Hodges fell away bleeding. Hodges also died from her wounds on scene."

McClure was found lying on his back, according to the affidavit. Hodges' body was near a doorway to the kitchen.

Investigators recovered five 9 mm casings at the crime scene.  

Newton County Sheriff Chris Jennings confirmed Monday that O'Banion was strangled and transported to the location where her body was found. She is believed to have been set on fire after having been killed and dumped in the ditch.

Jennings acknowledged that Johnson and O'Banion were a couple and that investigators believe that Johnson killed McClure and Hodges to avenge O'Banion's death. He also confirmed that Newton County deputies began looking for McClure and Hodges as early as Saturday night for questioning in the slaying of O'Banion.

"They were two people we wanted to talk to that we thought we knew had been with our victim," Jennings said.

He described them as persons of interest at the time in the Newton County case. He said it was too early at that time to say that they were suspects in the slaying of O'Banion. He said their role in her death remains under investigation.

"All we have to go on is what the individual in custody said," Jennings said. "But that certainly all fits. Those people were the persons of interest that we were looking at for our homicide."

The sheriff said O'Banion most probably was killed sometime overnight Friday. He said exactly where she was killed and why remain under investigation. She may have been killed in Jasper County, he said.

Jennings declined to discuss motive for the killing of O'Banion, indicating that remained "up in the air."

Court records show that Johnson was convicted of burglary in 2016 and served two years of probation before being released. He was arrested again June 25 when the Ozarks Drug Enforcement Team served a search warrant on an apartment in Carthage where he was living and allegedly seized 49 grams of methamphetamine, a set of scales, a shotgun, a rifle and ammunition. He faces a count of delivery of a controlled substance and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon in that case.

Jeff Lehr is a reporter for The Joplin Globe. 

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