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Wife turns in husband, father-in-law in Rock Island murder case

Tracy Johnson and TJ Eugene Johnson photos from Rock Island County Jail

Tracy Johnson and TJ Eugene Johnson photos from Rock Island County Jail

The death of an 84-year-old Rock Island man was initially considered an accident, but it turned into a murder case after a woman tipped off police about her husband and father-in-law.

A Rock Island police detective testified about the case during a preliminary hearing on Monday for Tracy Johnson, who is serving as his own defense attorney.

Detective Leo Hoogerwerf testified that a mail carrier discovered the body of Robert Tufts, 84, last April after he noticed papers and mail piling up at his house.

Hoogerwerf said Tufts had a bruise on the left side of his head, and several cuts to his face, body and legs.  He said it appeared like the man had fallen and no foul play suspected.

Seven months later, a woman came to the Rock Island Police Department with information about a burglary involving her husband, T.J. Johnson and his father, Tracy Johnson.

“T.J., more or less, confessed to her, ” Hoogerwerf testified. “T.J. told (her) they jumped the old guy, held the old guy down, and that they had taken change off an old man’s dresser, that he hoped the old man didn’t die because of this.” he said.

He also said police recovered surveillance video from a local grocery store that showed Johnson, on April 23, cashing in $279 worth of coins at a CoinStar machine on the same night police think Tufts was killed.

Tracy Johnson cross-examined the detective, asking him if police have recovered his DNA or fingerprints anywhere in the house.

“No. Not at this time,” Hoogerwerf answered.

Tracy Johnson has several burglary convictions, and he has been acquitted after other burglary arrests.  In 1988, he was convicted of beating 72-year-old Stearns Crapnell to death with a a hammer, and stealing Crapnell’s VCR.

Tracy Johnson was sentenced to 70 years in prison, but only served 10 after the Appellate Court overturned his conviction on a technicality involving a change of wording in the law.