It is quite rare to see criminal cases defending the criminal’s demonic possession. Yet that is what lawyer Martin Minella tried to do when Arne Cheyenne Johnson murdered Alan Bono. But this story takes a turn when it is revealed that the demonologist couple Ed and Lorraine Warren are not unknown in this story known as the trial of the demon who made the headlines in the 1980s.
It all began when Arne Johnson moved in with his partner Debbie Gatzel in 1980 and her family in Brookfield, Connecticut. David, her younger brother, is beginning to change his behaviour and is becoming more and more violent and darker, whereas he is usually a very calm child. He is 11 years old and has terrifying nightmares at night: he is convinced that a demon is chasing him and paranormal phenomena are multiplying in the house. He describes him as an old man who resents his soul and the evil entity regularly attacks the young boy, his mother sees him being thrown out of bed but still being strangled by almost totally invisible hands. (Image credit Arne Johnson, Josefa Lopez).
The Gatzel family then called on the Warren family, demonologists well known in the United States for the famous paranormal cases they had been handling for many years. When the couple arrives, the phenomena increase and David is prone to unexplainable epileptic seizures. Lorraine sees a black shadow near David and understands that he is possessed by several demons who have taken advantage of the boy’s innocence to use him against his will.
The couple prepares an exorcism for the little boy with the help of the Catholic Church, so the little boy undergoes 4 exorcisms one after the other in order to free him from evil.
During the first exorcisms David is unrecognizable, he grumbles, grumbles, insults and spits at Catholic priests during the rites, scratches himself abnormally and even starts to levitate. David also names 43 demons and recites passages from the Bible in Latin. Then he starts looking at his brother-in-law, Arne, talking about stab wounds and a murder to come without any explanation. Finally, at the end of the last rite, the fourth, Arne ordered the demons to come and possess him and not the little boy, against Lorraine’s advice, who begged him not to do so. Suddenly Arne is terrified by what he sees, a black shadow escapes from David’s body and black eyes appear brightly, staring at Arne with an air so dark that he will remain traumatized all his life.
A few days later, David remains traumatized by exorcisms and spends his days in bed to recover, before his possession he had gained almost three times his initial weight in just a few weeks and the consequences remained the same. David is constantly exhausted and has no strength left. Arne decides to take his car to get some air because he is subjected to intense nightmares, it is then that he has an absence and his car is embedded in a tree. Luckily he was not hurt but explained to his partner that he heard a voice call him before he passed out and he thought something had clung to him.
A few weeks later Arne and her partner Debbie moved into a new apartment together and Debbie found a job as a groomer while Arne worked in gardening. The owner of the couple’s home is Alan Bono but he is also the young woman’s boss. Arne was then 19 years old at the time of the incident. But Arne continues to have repeated absences and unexplainable convulsions of which he has no memory, he sometimes growls and becomes very aggressive, while he is also of a calm and warm nature. Debbie is worried but no one else but she sees her partner’s strange behaviour and Arne thinks she is keeping traumas from David’s possession. (Image credit Ed and Lorraine Warren, Lexie).
But the young man’s small, inconsequential seizures suddenly worsened on February 16, 1981 when he had lunch at the kennel where Debbie and Alan worked with them but also his little sisters Wanda and Mary. The girls are going to get a new pizza because the meal Alan bought is not enough to feed them, but when they come back Alan is completely drunk and attacks the girls.
Debbie tries to calm him down and gets Wanda and Arne out, but she realizes that Mary is not there. Arne understands that her nine-year-old little sister is in danger and goes back to the kennel where he surprises Alan who violently holds the little girl by the shoulders by insulting her. Debbie also comes home to try to calm the two men who are getting more and more aggressive and Alan drops the little girl who is running away to hide in the car while Wanda tries to separate them to prevent them from hitting each other.
It is then that Arne has a new absence that Wanda notices and moves away from him understanding that his brother is no longer present, he then pulls out a kitchen knife growling and attacks Alan by stabbing him more than twenty times Alan without the girls being able to stop him because of the superhuman force that Arne has at that very moment. They have nothing more to do than call the police and hide, both afraid for their own lives. Arne fled on foot and was found three kilometres later. Alan died of his injuries the next day. Lorraine heard the news from the Glatzel family and contacted the police to indicate that, according to her, Arne was possessed by a demon during the murder.
Martin Minella is the defense attorney and prepares the defense for Arne, himself during his visits to his client has seen strange phenomena, including at his own firm. He contacts Lorraine who explains the situation to him but also that the demons want to destroy Arne’s life and will do everything to ensure that he ends his life in prison. Martin went to London after hearing two similar stories where the criminals had not been prosecuted for their crimes and managed to convince not without difficulty the Catholic priests who had performed David’s exorcism as well as the Warren couple to come to the defence stand to tell the story surrounding Arne’s possession.
The court considers that Arne was not possessed and refutes the defence because it is neither scientific nor reliable and Martin changes from defence to self-defence but is sentenced on 28 October 1981 to 20 years’ imprisonment for first degree murder but only serves 5 years. In the meantime history is all over the USA and that’s what led to the earlier than expected release of Arne. The story is fascinating and Arne receives tens of thousands of support across the country. A book was written on the case, The devil in Connecticut by Gérald Brittle under the supervision of Lorraine Warren in 1983 and the benefits of the book were shared with the Glatzel family. The book was re-published in 2006 and Carl Glatzel, Debbie and David’s brother, filed a complaint for invasion of privacy and defamation and claimed a significant amount of compensation.
He believes that the Warrens made his brother handicapped because David has kept psychological after-effects following the exorcism. But the Glatzel family and Arne Johnson, now free and married to Debbie, did their best to reject him because he and Lorraine Warren were in great financial difficulty and he even wrote a book in which he attacked his family and the Warren family and accused them of paranormal phenomena described as false. Gérald Brittle tells the press that the story of his book has been validated by the whole family except Carl who does not believe in paranormal phenomena and who has been the victim of school and media harassment. Carl was unsuccessful and the family continues to support the paranormal theory in the Arne Cheyenne Johnson case.
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