The saga began during a Warren Middle School seventh grade field trip that took place on May 22, 2012. The kids were taken to Park Lane Ranch in Dallas because they had signed an Anti-Bullying Pledge. The mothers, including the victim and the suspect who were acting as chaperones, decided to hide their purses together at the location. All chaperones had to pass a nationwide criminal background check by FISD prior to the trip. The suspect had only been arrested on a misdemeanor theft charge in 2005. The field trip lasted from 9 a.m. to 2 pm. The victim says she and her child drove back to Forney and when she stopped to get gas she discovered her wallet missing from her purse.
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The victim called other parents on the trip and called the Park Lane Ranch to see if anyone had found her wallet. When she realized no one had recovered it, she checked her online banking account to make sure her Bank of America debit card had not been used. She found that at 2:50 p.m. that afternoon, someone had used her debit/credit card at the Target store in Mesquite and had charged nearly $550.00 on the card.
The victim immediately called the Dallas Police Department to report the wallet missing/stolen and the illegal credit card charge. DPD took a report and told her to call Mesquite PD about the Target charge. She had $350 as well as her debit card, credit cards, and drivers license in the wallet. The wallet had been a gift from her husband on her 40th birthday. She contacted Target and they found surveillance video of the suspect using the stolen credit card. Target security told the victim they had marked the female suspect as suspicious because they saw her putting multiple items into her shopping cart quickly, without looking at any prices. It appears that no one asked the suspect for ID when she went to purchase the items.
The victim made a report with Mesquite PD, who took over the Dallas case as well as their own. The victim was able to identify the suspect on the surveillance video, who was still wearing the same clothes she wore on the field trip. It was discovered that suspect Laura Johnson had one previous arrest in Bexar, Texas in 2005 for theft of checks. She was arrested by Kaufman County deputies on June 1, 2012 on a criminal mischief misdemeanor.
Suspect Johnson emailed the victim on June 4, 2012 after the Mesquite PD contacted her to tell her a warrant was issued for her arrest. She claimed she saw the wallet on the ground and took it. She apologized to the victim, claiming she had no idea the wallet was hers until she was at Target using the debit/credit card. She wrote that she had “not ever taken/stolen a single thing from anyone,” though a prior theft charge had been filed against her. She claimed she wanted to undo what she had done and make it right. When the victim asked her to return her belongings, and the money, suspect Johnson said she would, but never showed up to return the stolen property.
Johnson was arrested after turning herself in. She bonded out two hours later. She changed her story and told police that the victim had given her her money and wallet to help her out. Laura Jane Johnson will now face at least one felony charge in connection with the theft of the wallet.