JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A man who pleaded to guilty to second-degree murder in a nearly four-decade old cold case was sentenced to 20-35 years in prison Friday after the judge accepted the plea deal.
Authorities say Roger Pollard killed Karen Johnson in Jacksonville on April 19, 1979. Authorities say Pollard beat and strangled Johnson to death while her husband was deployed to training. He was in the same Marine Unit as her husband.
Pollard was arrested back in May 2016 for the murder.
“Justice has finally been done after all these years,” Joyce Trevethan, Johnson’s mother.
Friday’s verdict has left the family with a sense of relief.
“It’s made a hole in our family,” said Trevathan. “We did a lot of family things together and without her it’s just not the same.”
At nearly 60 years old, Pollard’s sentence could last him the rest of his life, but family members said it is a long time coming.
“It’s just been a very heavy burden to carry,” said Trevathan. “Just to think that he was out living on the streets and being a free man. It just was very trying.”
Her husband, now remarried, said he is focusing on the good.
“That was one of the things that got me through life,” said Gary Johnson. “The minister…said ‘Gary, she was a gift of God, and you got to spend three months with her, and her best year. Really, you have to look at it that way. She was a gift.'”
Pollard was honorably discharged from the Marines, but Johnson’s family members said that situation could change now that he has been convicted.
Pollard was initially charged with first-degree murder but pleaded to second-degree murder as part of the deal. HIs sentencing reflects the punishment for second-degree murder in 1979, when the crime was committed.
Onslow County District Attorney Ernie Lee said, “This was a very difficult and challenging case to say the least that has taken many months of hard work by the District Attorney’s Office, the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory. This case is over 38 years old and obviously there have been challenges in investigating and prosecuting this case.”