A Cary man accused of killing Wendy Jean Johnson, a night nurse who left a legacy of helping others in their times of need, pleaded guilty Tuesday to shooting her to death in an apartment complex parking lot in 2014.
Daniel Scott Remington was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole. He had entered a plea negotiation with prosecutors to avoid the death penalty that was possible in his case.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood told Remington that he had sentenced many people for murder, but few for “murdering an angel.”
Before the sentencing, Laura Jackson described her mother as her best friend, a generous spirit and a woman who would have given her last dollar to help someone else. According to a search warrant released after his arrest, Remington told a detective he had tried to take Johnson’s purse but that she had resisted.
“That she would lose her life to someone trying to take from her what she would have freely given if she had it is quite ironic,” Jackson told the judge.
In a teary speech, Jackson outlined her childhood in rural Minnesota, where her mother gave up her nursing job in the city to raise her in a home on a rural gravel road near her maternal grandparents and their farm with horses.
Jackson described how her mother, often struggling to get ahead financially, was quick to provide what she had to others – when family fell ill or the special-needs child she adopted needed extra help.
“She always gave of herself even when she had nothing left financially,” Jackson said.
On Jackson’s 18th birthday, mother and daughter went to Jamaica to take part in a mission trip.
Johnson followed through on her dreams of setting up a therapeutic riding facility in the late 1990s.
Then several years before her death she followed her daughter to North Carolina to help with the grandchildren after Jackson’s husband was deployed to Afghanistan. Johnson took a mission trip to Africa, fulfilling another dream, with a church she had joined in Sanford.
She had plans to do much more overseas before her encounter with Remington on Aug. 22, 2014.
Johnson was at Hyde Park Apartments shortly before 11 p.m. that night, on her way to help a client who had a daughter with disabilities, when residents in the apartment complex flooded 911 with calls about a woman screaming “get away, get away” before the sound of a gunshot.
Johnson was found injured in the parking lot. She died early the next morning at Duke University Medical Center.
Before her death, Johnson had been taking care of Jackson’s family during the day while Jackson was at work. At night, Johnson, who was 58 when she died, worked as a nurse providing in-home care for clients.
“She was tenacious,” Jackson said. “She never gave up.”
Jackson sobbed as she relayed her regrets for being too busy the last time she saw her mom to tell her goodbye. Johnson had taken her grandchildren and adopted son to Jordan Lake for a camping trip, and in the rush of daily life, Jackson had not anticipated that she would never see the woman who had been so central to her life.
“My mom was always the glue that held everything together,” Jackson said. “She was a mother, a grandmother and an aunt. ... She was my best friend.”