Man charged in fatal '09 beatings of Ferndale woman, infant

Suspect already in jail on unrelated drug charges

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 29, 2010 

A Whatcom County prosecutor said blood taken from a Ferndale woman found fatally beaten last March matches blood found on the boxer shorts of her live-in boyfriend.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Mac Setter alleges that this evidence and the boyfriend's statements to detectives tie him to the slayings of Laura McQueen, 24, and her 1-year-old son, Dominic Blackburn.

Setter charged Daniel E. Johnson, 28, with two counts of second-degree murder Thursday afternoon, Jan. 28.

Johnson is currently serving a 20-month sentence in a state prison for convictions on unrelated drug charges, but an arrest warrant has been issued and he will be brought to Whatcom County in the next few weeks to face these charges, Setter said.

McQueen and Dominic were found dead March 4, 2009. Johnson was arrested that morning after he turned himself in on an outstanding warrant, and he has been incarcerated since.

In the jail that morning, Johnson allegedly said "he was scared; he knew he had killed them," and told officers, "I really wanted to turn myself in for what happened in the apartment, but I couldn't say it out loud," according to charging documents.

Setter said charging Johnson was delayed until he had received test results from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in Marysville earlier this month.

According to charging documents Setter filed Thursday:

Johnson was living in McQueen's two-bedroom apartment in the 6100 block of Portal Way; McQueen, Dominic and Johnson shared one room, while a roommate occupied another. McQueen's nephew was staying on the living room couch.

On March 3, a friend of McQueen's went to the apartment and overheard her arguing with Johnson in their bedroom. Several other friends reported the couple was going through difficulties, and McQueen had discussed breaking up with Johnson.

In the month before, Johnson had broken furniture in the bathroom in a fit of drunken rage, according to friends' accounts.

After the nephew made dinner and McQueen's roommate left for work, they went to a neighbors' place and drank alcohol.

Once they returned, the nephew and friend fell asleep in the living room while McQueen and Johnson went to the bedroom with the infant.

McQueen's roommate returned from work early the next morning. At about 4:30 a.m., he recalled seeing Johnson washing his hands at the kitchen sink.

At 5:50 a.m., Johnson called 911 from a pay phone at a gas station down the street from McQueen's apartment and told dispatchers he had an outstanding warrant.

Officers responded and saw that Johnson had blood on his coat; Johnson said he had cut his arm the day before. They found no cuts on his arms.

McQueen and Dominic were found at about 9 a.m. Blood covered her bed, Dominic's crib and the walls. A broken massager was found on the bed with bloodstains on it.

Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel determined that McQueen and Dominic died of blows to their heads, faces and necks.

At the jail, detectives had search warrants for Johnson's clothing and to search him.

They found blood on his socks, boxer shorts and shirt. No blood was found on his fingers or nails, which aligns with the roommate's account of Johnson washing his hands.

In interviews with investigators, Johnson said he woke up and found McQueen covered in blood and obviously dead. He said he got up and saw Dominic in his crib also dead.

He said he left the apartment through a bedroom window.

Reach PETER JENSEN at 715-2264 or at peter.jensen@bellinghamherald.com.

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