Florida death row inmate convicted of 1981 triple murder dies in prison

Florida Death Row Inmate Convicted of Triple Murder Dies in Prison

A long and dark chapter in Florida’s criminal history came to a close as Paul Beasley Johnson, a death row inmate convicted of brutally killing a deputy and two others more than 40 years ago, passed away while serving his sentence in the Union County Correctional Institution in North Florida. The 74-year-old inmate died on a Saturday while undergoing medical treatment, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The tragic events unfolded in 1981 when Johnson, during an all-night methamphetamine-fueled crime spree, mercilessly took the lives of three innocent people. Among the victims was Deputy Theron Burnham, whom Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd fondly remembered as a good friend.

“Three innocent people were violently and viciously murdered that night in 1981 during an all-night meth-induced crime spree, and I personally lost a good friend in Deputy Theron Burnham,” Sheriff Judd expressed. “Johnson was captured by SWAT during a manhunt, and I had the pleasure of being one of two deputies to take him to jail.”

Paul Beasley Johnson faced a grim fate in 1981, when he was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and several other charges. His violent crime spree began with the murder of cabdriver William Evans, followed by the heinous act of setting the victim’s vehicle ablaze. Johnson then encountered a man and a woman, and he fatally shot the man, Ray Beasley, while the woman managed to escape and call for help. Deputy Theron Burnham responded to the scene and tragically lost his life during a confrontation with Johnson.

Reflecting on the outcome, Sheriff Judd shared, “I am glad he (Johnson) hasn’t enjoyed a day of freedom since then, but the truth is, he should have been executed by the State a long time ago.” While Johnson’s earthly reckoning has ended, there remains a final judgment that awaits him, and given his past, it’s uncertain how it will unfold.

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