Chad Johnson, accused of murdering 26-year-old Jennifer Papain of North Patchogue in 2010, faced a judge and jury in Suffolk County Criminal Court this week, maintaining his innocence, after having led police to the woman’s body last year.
Papain had been a missing person for nearly three months before Johnson brought police to the shallow grave, a crude 2-foot-deep hole just off the Long Island Expressway service road in Medford—just out of the view of Johnson’s home down the road.
There are still faded pink marks on the trees, left by police that night. The hole is still there, filled with weeds.
Police say 22-year-old Johnson arranged through Craigslist to meet Papain in the parking lot of the Bay Shore Inn in March 2010 for sex. Papain had driven to the motel with a male friend, who waited for her in the car, but Papain never returned when she said she would.
The friend said Papain got into Johnson’s car, and the defendant drove her to an unknown location.
The entrance of the Bay Shore Inn faces the busy Bay Shore Road, but behind the motel is vacant, with an abandoned swimming pool and narrow wooded road leading directly to Sunrise Highway. If Johnson drove Papain to the back of the hotel, he could have easily gotten on the main highway unnoticed by her friend, who was waiting in the front at the time.
Johnson later told police he had strangled Papain in his car when she wouldn’t refund his $80.
“I choked her until she died after we argued about her giving me back the money I paid her for the [sexual encounter],” Johnson said, according to court documents.
He subsequently pleaded not guilty to the crime. Johnson also faces charges of patronizing a prostitute, aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle and unlawful possession of marijuana.
Judge Gary Weber says the trial could last through November 18.