Chad Johnson, accused of killing 26-year-old Jennifer Papain in 2010, confessed to the murder, telling officers he strangled the woman in a church parking lot, buried her body in the woods in Medford and burned her clothing and personal belongings in a garbage can at Gilgo Beach, a detective testified in Suffolk County Criminal Court Wednesday.
“Detective, you know she’s dead,” said Johnson, 23, who arranged through Craigslist to meet Papain in the parking lot of the Bay Shore Inn on March 24, 2010 for sex, according to the testimony of Det. Michael Soto of the Suffolk County Police Department.
“He said he buried her…he said he choked her,” said Soto. When the detective asked Johnson why he did it he said Johnson responded that he “just snapped” and he “is f*cked up.”
In a written statement to police, Johnson later said that he wanted more than the 30 minutes he paid for with Papain, that she stopped “before he was finished.”
Johnson told detectives he asked her to return half of the $80 he paid her. When she didn’t, “he reached over and choked her in the front seat” of his girlfriend’s car, which he was using at the time, according to Soto.
“I kept choking her until she went limp and then I freaked out,” Johnson said in the written statement to police.
After he put her body in the back seat of the car, Johnson said he walked to his friend’s house next door to buy $25 worth of marijuana, got high and later used the dead woman’s phone in an attempt to claim money from one of her accounts, but he didn’t have her pin number.
Johnson told police he dumped Papain’s body in broad daylight, putting his hazard lights on, waiting for traffic to clear and then pretending to check his tires, according to Soto, before dragging her into the woods in Medford. Johnson then took three garbage bags of leaves dumped nearby, and threw them on top of her.
“I knew I had to hide the girl’s dead body better than I did,” Johnson said in the written statement, and went on to explain how he went back to the area on Expressway Drive North–just down the block from his home–later that night with a shovel, dug a shallow hole, stripped Papain’s body naked, buried her and then ripped open the bags of leaves on top of her, leaving the shovel on the side of the road.
Johnson later drove to Gilgo Beach, according to Soto, where he put the woman’s purse and clothing in a garbage pail, poured gasoline over them, and set them on fire. When the fire went out he kicked the pail over and left, Johnson said in the written statement. He said he then dumped Papain’s cell phone in a bathroom garbage pail at Briarcliffe College.
Detectives said Johnson was extremely cooperative before the confession, admitting to hiring the woman for oral sex, and meeting with police on multiple occasions after Papain’s disappearance, even driving with them back to the motel and retracing his path during the moments Johnson was with Papain.
Johnson told detectives he used a campus library computer to go on the “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist to look for a prostitute, while he was attending Briarcliffe College in Patchogue in 2010 as a criminal justice major. He arranged to meet with Papain for a half hour for $80, after getting prices from several women, according to Soto.
He then met Papain at the Bay Shore Inn and drove her a few miles away to a vacant church parking lot near his friend’s house, where they parked to engage in the sex act.
Johnson originally told detectives Papain didn’t want a ride back to the motel, so he dropped her off on a street corner in Bay Shore. But, according to Soto, this differed from what Johnson had previously told police—that he had driven Papain back to the motel. Johnson also told police two different stories about where he went immediately after, Soto said.
These inconsistencies in Johnson’s story, plus cell phone records showing Papain and Johnson’s cell phones in the same area after Johnson claimed she had left him, led police to take a closer look at Johnson, the last person to see Papain alive.
Police searched the 2008 Chrysler 300 that Johnson was driving when he had met with Papain, according to testimony by Det. John Oliva.
A cadaver dog was brought in to inspect the car and Oliva said once the dog came to the trunk of the car, it started getting agitated, putting its paws on the trunk and scratching. When the trunk was opened, Oliva said the dog jumped into the trunk, meaning the dog picked up a scent. The car was then impounded.
“It was obvious he was being less than honest with us,” Soto testified.
Johnson told police he never knew Papain’s name and that they hardly talked while they were together. He also told police he had been raped as a child by his older brothers and had rage issues.
“He told us that he needed help, that he had anger problems especially with women and sex,” said Soto. “That he had hurt some of his girlfriends in the past and even choked them.”
Johnson, who told police he wanted to be an FBI profiler to get into the minds of criminals and that his favorite crime show is The First 48, according to Soto, said he had been honest about everything he told police in the multiple times he was questioned after Papain’s disappearance.
Johnson told Soto, “The only thing I didn’t tell you is that I killed her.”