Accused killer wants to act as own attorney

A Rock Island man charged with robbing and killing an 84-year-old railroad retiree wants to act as his own attorney.

Tracy Johnson, 45, made the request at a hearing Tuesday in Rock Island in front of Judge Michael Meersman.

“I don’t trust the public defender,” Johnson said. “I just don’t want them doing nothin’ for me. I’m gonna represent myself,” he said.

Johnson and his son, TJ Eugene Johnson, 27, are both charged with home invasion, robbery, murder, and other felony charges.  They are accused of killing Robert Tufts, a retired Rock Island Lines and Oscar Mayer worker, in his home back in April.

His neighbor, Bernice Holland,  says Tufts lived with his dog in the house at 935 3rd Avenue, and appeared to be going strong at the age of 84.

“Every morning, he would get in his truck and take his dog.  It was so shocking.  I was like, ‘Who would murder him?'” Holland said.

In 1988, Johnson was arrested and later convicted in the robbing and killing of 72-year-old Stearns Crapnell.  Crapnell was beaten to death with a hammer, his VCR stolen and sold for fifty dollars.

Johnson served just 10 years of a 70-year prison sentence, after the Appellate Court overturned his conviction over the way the charge was worded at the time of his trial.

Johnson’s preliminary hearing was scheduled for December 17th.

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