It's a murder mystery in Hearne that has authorities and a family searching for answers.
In July, 27-year-old Hank Johnson was found beaten at the Executive Inn. Police say it was a massive struggle at the motel room that put the Pasadena native on his death bed.
While most customers wait for food and a check at CJ's Country Kitchen, Sandi Johnson waits for justice for her son, Hank.
"He was always musical, even when he was little...very musical," Ms. Johnson said. "He also did impressions."
Sandi created Dorp Express, a musical puppet show out of Pasadena based on her books and albums. Hank became a star as a puppeteer and actor, performing in front of dozens, and in front of thousands...and with passion.
"It was all the same, whether there were a few kids or not," Johnson said. "It didn't matter. He was there."
Hank Johnson was in Hearne this summer as a fiberglass specialist, working on the Oak Grove Power Plant, travelling back to Pasadena every weekend to be with his recently divorced mom and his two kids, a 10- and a four-year-old.
"He was supporting us and helping with the shows, and the kids," Sandi said. "He had a full plate."
It wasn't supposed to be his last night in Hearne, but on July 10, police in Hearne say Hank Johnson was brutally beaten at his motel room. The artist, entertainer, son and father became a victim.
Sandi got the call early on July 11. In disbelief, she answered.
"And I said, 'Hank? You're talking about my son...Hank?'"
Hank Johnson suffered a pair of skull fractures, a pair of strokes, and even a heart attack on the way to St. Joseph Regional Health Center. What has complicated things for the authorities in this investigation is that apparently, nobody saw any of this.
The Hearne Police Department with help from the District Attorney's office has conducted a number of interviews. Police have recovered property stolen from Hank Johnson's room, and the person who had it has been questioned. Authorities say their leads have not dried up yet.
For nearly two weeks, Hank Johnson lay in a coma, fighting for life.
"You want to believe, and I kept telling [the nurses], 'You don't know Hank. He can do so many things.'"
What he couldn't do this time was survive.
"What happened that night, that took my heart, and my family's heart, and his kids' heart," Sandi said. "I know we can't get him back."
Sandi Johnson waits for justice to a witness-less crime at a town two hours from home, a town where a love lost gives her anguish every day. On Wednesday, she went to the door where police say her child was assaulted. She left a rose, and openly sobbed for her only son.
"This is for you, baby...baby boy," she said. "I love you so much, and I miss you. I miss you so much."
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