A judge sentenced a 39-year-old Joplin man to 10 years in prison this week on convictions for kidnapping and attempted sodomy in connection with a 2017 sexual assault of a clerk in a store on Joplin’s east side.
Circuit Judge David Mouton assessed Lawrence E. Johnson concurrent terms of 10 years for first-degree kidnapping and four years for attempted first-degree sodomy at a sentencing hearing Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court.
Johnson pleaded guilty to the charges Aug. 23 in a plea agreement dismissing two additional felony counts of kidnapping and assault stemming from a second incident the same day involving another female clerk at a different store in Joplin. The judge accepted the plea deal and assessed the defendant the agreed-upon length of prison terms.
Johnson was arrested on the charges following incidents at the two stores Jan. 2, 2017. At the first store on Range Line Road, he lured the lone clerk on duty into a restroom by requesting her assistance with a supposed restroom equipment issue. When she entered the restroom, he shut the door and locked it, and then forced her up against a wall, took her pants off and made her take off her underwear, according to the affidavit.
The clerk told police she was feared for her life.
But then, before he did anything further, Johnson suddenly left the restroom and the business, taking with him both the clerk’s personal cellphone and a phone that belonged to the business.
According to a police report, Johnson showed up at a second store a short time later, where a female employee did not comply with his attempts to lure her into a similar situation.
Johnson underwent multiple court-ordered mental health examinations before being determined mentally competent for court proceedings in March 2018.