HomeThe 'Devilish' Story Of Arne Johnson, Man Convicted Of Manslaughter

The ‘Devilish’ Story Of Arne Johnson, Man Convicted Of Manslaughter

The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, infamously known as the “Devil Made Me Do It” case, remains the first known case in the United States wherein the defense sought to prove innocence based on Arne’s claim of demonic possession. The real-life story of Arne Johnson was also the subject matter of the famous movie, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It of “The Conjuring” franchise.

The Possessed Man Takes The Plea…

Arne Cheyenne Johnson fatally stabbed his landlord Alan Bono on February 16, 1981, and said, “The Devil Made Me Do It”. The court of law, for the first time in history, was dealing with a question related to the devil while it may have dealt with questions related to god. But, such was the story of Arne Johnson.

Initially, the Alan Bono murder was termed an open and shut case in Brookfield Connecticut, until Arne Johnson spoke before the authorities. The police became convinced that the 40-year-old landlord was murdered by his tenant Arne Cheyenne Johnson as a result of a violent argument, but then it came out that the man who was possessed by the devil finally spoke up.

During the trial, Arne Cheyenne Johnson was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for murdering his landlord, Alan Bono. However, he made some astonishing claims following his arrest. During the hearing, Arne said: “The Devil made me do it,” and his attorneys vehemently presented this claim of their client’s demonic possession as a potential defence for the murder of Alan Bono. Such claims were even backed up by two paranormal investigators who were present during an exorcism practice.

First-Hand Account By Arne and Debbie…

The roots of this case go back to the convict, Arne and the Glatzel family, who actually provided a first-hand account of the events that preceded Arne’s possession. FYI, these events were depicted in Discovery’s “A Haunting”, episode “Were Demons Dwell”. Arne and Debbie’s father became an eyewitness to demonic possession and the two brothers were adamant to support their father’s claim.

So one question arises, how exactly did Arne get possessed? Per the testimony by the Glatzel family, the 11-year-old David Glatzel allegedly got possessed by a demon. After witnessing a series of bizarre events involving David, his family members decided to roll in two famed private paranormal investigators Rd and Lorraine Warren.

These people marched forward multiple priests petition the Church to perform a formal exorcism on David. The process continued for several days, however, the alleged eyewitnesses made an astonishing claim. They stated that the demond fled David’s body and entered Arne while he was participating in the exorcism. If you don’t know this, these claims are also marked in the book The Devil in Connecticut” by Gerald Brittle, which too became a controversy later on.

The Evil House…

Arne and Debbie narrated that paranormal activities started when they went to clean up a rental property they has acquired. David stated that an old man appeared, trying to terrify him. His family assumed that David was fooling them avoid contributing to their household chores, but later David narrated that it was the demon who warned him that it will harm the Glatzels if they moved into the rental home.

As time passed, David’s visions ended up becoming more prominent and he mentioned during a conversation that the devil came into the form of an old man who muttered Latin and threatened to steal his family’s soul. Even though his family confessed about hearing strange noises, it was only David who ever saw the demon. Per an eyewitness testimony, Arne Johnson coerced one of the demons, purportedly within David, to possess him while participating in David’s exorcisms.

In accordance with the dramatized version and Arne’s personal account, he mentioned that this event marked his last encounter with the demon while being lucid. As Arne made an eye contact with the devil, he became possessed during the said time.  Well, we may not believe it but this is something even David’s family narrated.

The Murder Of Alan Bono…

Alan Bono, who was Arne and Debbie’s landlord was rather friendly with him and the two usually met up near the kennel. The fateful day of Feb. 16, 1981 cannot be forgotten by the people associated with this story as a vicious argument broke out between the two and Arne Johnson ended up stabbing Bono multiple times in the chest and stomach. This left him bleeding to death. Police later arrested him, and said that the two men indulged into an argument over Arne’s fiancée, Debbie.

But, there was a lot more to this story. The Warrens insisted that sometime before the murder, Arne Johnson went on to investigate a well in the same area where Debbie’s brother claimed to have his first encounter with a devil. That was it, Arne could not avoid the havoc that was about to engulf him.

The Warrens also narrated that they never wanted Arne to go to that well and warned him against it. However, Arne, being the stubborn guy, went there to see if demons could actually take over his body. During his trial, Arne claimed that he saw one devil hiding withing the well, which ultimately possessed him until after the murder.

As for the authorities, they initially tried investigating the claim of this haunting, but later they remained adamant that Bono was killed because of a fight between them over his fiancée.

What Happened At The Trial?

The trial took place in Connecticut’s Superior Court in Danbury, and started on Octover 28, 1981. Arne Johnson’s attorney, Martin Minnella forced his way to make a plea of “not guilty by reason of demonic possession.” He even planned to “subpoena the priests who allegedly attended the exorcisms”, urging them to break tradition and speak in the court of law about their controversial rites.

During the course of trial, Arne’s attorney Minnella and Warrens were continuously mocked by the people present, who found them as the “profiteers of tragedy”. “They have an excellent vaudeville act, a good road show,” said mentalist George Kresge. “It’s just that this case more involves clinical psychologists than it does them.”

The trial of Arne Johnson was being heard by Judge Robert Callahan. After hearing shocking testimonies and the plea, he rejected Arne;s plea and arued that such a defense of demonic possession would be next to impossible to prove in the court of law. Further, he stated that any testimony on the matter would stand as “unscientific and thus irrelevant”. Not only this, bu the present of those three priests and their involvement in the exorcism of David was never confirmed.

But there was one thing that happened. The Diocese of Bridgeport acknowledged that priests worked on helping David Glatzel during a difficult time. The priests in question, meanwhile, were ordered strictly not to give any public statement on the matter whatsoever. No one from the church has said one way or the other what was involved,” said Rev. Nicholas V. Grieco, a diocese spokesman. “And we decline to say.”

However, Johnson’s lawyers were permitted to examine the deceased’s clothing. It came out that the lack of any blood, rips, or tears, could help support the claim of demonic involvement. But, the court wasn’t convinced.

In the end, Arne’s legal team opted for a self-defence plea and he was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in jail, but again, he only served five years. The bizarre case of Arne Johnson has inspired the creation of many TV shows and famous movies like The Demon Murder Case, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and the book The Devil in Connecticut. The movies and shows provide a first-hand account of such events.

Where Is Arne Johnson Now?

Arne Johnson was released on good behaviour in 1986 after serving five fears of his sentence. FYI, Arne married Debbie Glatzel while he was still in prison and even managed to get a high school diploma from the prison. The pair ended up giving birth to two children.

Now, the fans of “Conjuring 3” may be aware that the movie aptly narrates the unusual trip of Arne Johnson and provides details of his court case where he argued a demonic possession.Michael Chaves’ movie The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It also dives into the Arne Cheyenne Johnson case, providing glimpses of the real-life murder trial. The catch here is that this movie follows a different approach to the usual Conjuring movie.

The movie changed the true story behind Conjuring 3, but still fairly sticks closely to real-life events. If you don’t know this, Debbie passed away from cancer when the movie came out. Since his release from prison, not much is known about Arne Johnson, however, Lorraine Warren has said he managed to secure a job as a landscaper after being released.

When we speak of Arne Johnson, we cannot stop mentioning  “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It”, which lets the viewers travel through his life before and during the trial. On this,  Director Michael spoke in an interview: “This is the story of Arne and also his girlfriend who became his wife, Debbie Glatzel. She was there during the exorcism, she was there at the murder and she testified for him and she believed. She stood by that and they’ve been married the rest of her life, she actually just passed away from cancer.”

Apart from this, Lorraine’s book “The Devil In Connecticut co-written with Gerald Brittle also provides a first-hand account of disturbing events in the lives of Arne, Glatzel family and the people surrounding them. David’s brother Carl Glatzel has spoken out against the book after it was republished (in 2006). He said it was a “complete lie”. He also mentioned that the Warrens built up a phoney story about demons so that they could get rich and famous at their expense.

As a result, in 2007, David and Carl filed a lawsuit against Brittle and the Warrens for ‘unspecified financial damages’. They sued the authors and publishers for violating their privacy, libel and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Brittle, though claimed that the book was based on interviews with the Glazel family that went on for more than 100 hours.

Loraine Warren even claims that the six priests who performed exorcisms on Glatzel agreed that he was possessed. On the other hand, Debbie Glatzel and Arne Johnson have always stated that Arne was possessed by a demon. On the other hand, David’s father denies any such event.

The story of Arne Johnson makes us believe what lies beyond the thoughts of a rational man. This story has shaken many to the core, especially those who were a witness to Arne’s condition. But again, the court remained confused as this case made them question everything. However, in the end, even the judge sided with his rational thought and punished Arne, even if for five years.

Whether Arne was possessed or not, is a question that may never be answered. But yes, there are some truths that lie beyond the usual beliefs of the system, the authorities and society as a whole. Such is the story of Arne Johnson, who roared loud in the court that the Devil made him do that. This case became one of the most bizarre cases where a plea of demonic possession was taken for the very first time. While the truth may be far to seek, there is some truth to what Arne narrated. What do you think?

Mallika
I am Mallika Singh, a lawyer and writer by profession. Writing gives me a sense of freedom and independence. I am a keen observer and an ardent reader. When not at work, you can find me at the stable. Horse riding is another passion that keeps me going.
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