The D.C. actress and yoga instructor who disappeared Christmas Day and was later found dead in her car had her legs bound by a seat belt and exhibited signs of sexual assault, according to an arrest affidavit filed in court.
Police said Tricia McCauley, 46, had been strangled and beaten, then stuffed in the rear of her white Scion iQ hatchback and concealed under several items.
The man charged in her death, Adrian Duane Johnson, 29, did not know McCauley, police have said. Johnson told police that McCauley offered him a ride on Christmas as he was walking and that she killed herself, according to the affidavit.
McCauley apparently left her apartment in the Bloomingdale neighborhood Sunday, headed to a party for members of her theater group. She posted on social media at 5:30 p.m. that she was on her way, but she never showed.
Police arrested Johnson shortly after midnight Tuesday, when a dog walker saw McCauley’s car near Dupont Circle and recognized it from a missing-person bulletin.
Johnson, who also goes by Duane Johnson, was ordered detained by a D.C. Superior Court judge Wednesday until a preliminary hearing Jan. 13. He has a lengthy arrest record, mostly for theft. His family describes him as homeless and suffering from mental illness.
Johnson’s attorney, Jacqueline Cadman, initially asked the judge to release her client pending trial. A man in the gallery, later identified as Greg Upwall, a close friend of McCauley’s, shouted: “Wait! No! He’s an animal!” As U.S. marshals escorted Upwall out, he yelled: “He took my friend from me! He stole her.”
Cadman told the judge that the felony murder charges and others filed against Johnson were based on “assumptions and speculation and a rush to judgment.” She said that “not a single person sees Mr. Johnson” with McCauley before her death, and she said her client was one of several people seen near or in her car the day after Christmas.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney David Misler said police had arrested the right person. Arguing that Johnson should be held in jail, Misler highlighted a long criminal history of thefts and some robberies, a few of which involved violence, and a “history of not showing up in court.”
Johnson was arrested Dec. 17 and charged with shoplifting electric toothbrushes from a CVS in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. He was detained until Dec. 20 and then released after prosecutors said they did not have a witness available for a hearing. A judge ordered that Johnson be monitored by GPS.
Officials said Johnson did not pick up the GPS ankle bracelet, as required, on Dec. 21. Pretrial officials are supposed to report the infraction, although those records are not filed on the public docket. Judges typically do not issue arrest warrants until after a hearing. Johnson had a “show cause” hearing scheduled Jan. 4.
Johnson’s lengthy arrest record in the District and elsewhere, and penalties that typically involved no more than a few weeks or months in jail, have raised questions. He also is wanted on two arrest warrants for failure to appear in court in Maryland. Because the underlying charges are minor, Johnson cannot be extradited.
Johnson’s stepfather said Tuesday that he needed help but “the court system let him go.”
Upwall, who disrupted Wednesday’s hearing, said, “We feel as though the justice system is broken. . . . I was overcome because if there’s any possibility this guy gets released, I won’t be able to live.” He added: “Tricia was the most peace-loving, happy, joyful and giving person imaginable. And because of some senseless, insane act, completely random, we’ll never see her eyes again, we’ll never hear her voice again, we’ll never see her smile.”
The arrest affidavit does not answer a crucial question of how Johnson might have encountered McCauley, or where. A witness told police that McCauleygot into her Scion near her house on North Capitol Street and drove away alone about 6 p.m. Dec. 25.
Johnson told police that he met McCauley “sometime on or around Christmas Day” and that she had offered him a ride, according to the affidavit.
Authorities said there were several sightings of her car and of Johnson on Dec. 26. One was at a CVS on 14th Street NW, where police said he stole 15 Dove soap bars, struck an employee and grabbed his phone. His image was captured on surveillance video.
Police also said that on the same day, Johnson was seen with other men and at least one woman who did not resemble McCauley. Another person saw the white car heading toward a campground in Northern Virginia. Johnson also told police that at one point he picked up a prostitute, according to the affidavit.
After his arrest, police said Johnson asked detectives, “If someone is suicidal and gives you all their stuff, is that illegal?” according to the affidavit. Police said in the court document, “The defendant said he did not realize it was illegal to accept something from a dead person.”