Police ask help solving homicide

Police ask help solving homicide

More than a week after the violent death of Roger Johansen, investigators are asking people who might have information about the killing to provide anonymous tips through Southern Oregon Crime Stoppers.

Investigators suspect that people who might know about the circumstances leading up to Johansen's death at a Table Rock Road print shop are reticent either because they fear retribution from whoever killed him and set his shop ablaze or because they have checkered pasts themselves and don't want to risk landing in jail for previous infractions.

The Crime Stoppers tip line enables people to contribute information to homicide detectives, who aren't concerned about old warrants or drug charges, authorities said.

Investigators said they are tracking leads in the complicated case, which has tangled ties into a community of drug users and dealers.

Johansen, 50, had a history of meth-related crimes, which had landed him in jail in the past, but he had no convictions since 2002, Jackson County Circuit Court records show. Firefighters discovered his body Dec. 10 in the charred ruins of the shop where he lived and worked at 6608 Table Rock Road, Central Point. An autopsy determined that his death was a homicide.

"He was the victim here," said his older brother, Frank Johansen of Talent. "He trusted people he shouldn't have."

Frank Johansen said that as his brother approached 50 he had settled down, started thinking about his health, and focused on work and music.

Frank, Roger and younger brother Glenn grew up in Minneapolis, then all landed in the Rogue Valley after their parents retired in Medford. A sister, Karen, lives in Reno.

Their father was a printer and taught his sons his trade. Frank and Roger had a print shop together in Encinitas, Calif., before coming to Medford in the mid-1980s and opening an Instaprint franchise in White City, Frank Johansen said.

Frank Johansen went on to work in computer networks and Roger kept up the family business tradition, printing in his parents' garage and a string of low-rent shops under the business name Budget X-Press.

His brothers said he was always willing to offer a hand to anyone who needed a job. He would set them to work cutting paper, stapling pamphlets or stuffing envelopes and make sure they got a paycheck, a meal and a place to stay.

"He always reached out to them because he had been there," Frank Johansen said.

His generosity extended to anything in need, said his longtime girlfriend, Alice Kelley, who had separated from him in the past year, but still visited daily.

When she was keeping his shop while he served a jail sentence, a stray cat started hanging around. She ignored the long-haired tabby, but as soon as Johansen returned, he started feeding the cat, which he dubbed Kitty. Before long, Johansen was giving the shaggy creature regular baths, finished off with a blow dryer, so the cat could sleep in his bed.

Much of Roger Johansen's printing business came from James Lloyd, a Jacksonville writer who heads Christian Media Network, a ministry focused on prophecy and the end times.

Lloyd said he appreciated Johansen's upbeat can-do attitude, sense of humor and honest and responsible work.

"He was a kind and generous person," Lloyd said.

Lloyd said he knew his printer moved in a subculture of drugs, as well as a generally bad neighborhood, but he loved to visit the shop and meet the people Johansen was helping out with a job.

"It was almost like a ministry," he said. "Those are tough streets, but he was a conduit for good."

Glenn Johansen said his brother was smart, energetic and charismatic. He was an avid reader of history and loved to talk about the strategies and politics of World War II and debate late into the night.

He also had a passion for music, playing drums in bands and jam sessions with Frank, a guitarist. His shop, tucked out of the way, was a gathering place where musicians could play as loud and as long as they liked, Frank Johansen said.

"It wasn't a drug scene," Frank Johansen said. "It was a music gathering place and a workplace."

However, other units in the string of garage-like shops were linked to the meth trade.

Medford police tracked a suspected dealer named Alejandro Zavala-Luna to one of the neighboring units and worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration to arrest him and his supplier in White City on federal charges of distribution of methamphetamine in February. Zavala-Luna is jailed, awaiting trial, and his supplier, Israel Figueroa-Rosas, has already pleaded guilty.

Kelley said she was surprised to find federal agents surrounding the building when that raid was made. Johansen had kept an eye on things to prevent thefts and vandalism at the shops, but she didn't think he knew about the drug dealing.

"He had his own set of standards, but he was a good man," she said.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail

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