A man who confessed to strangling his 29-year-old girlfriend was sentenced Monday to 27 years in prison.
Justin Johnson, 42, who was originally charged with murder, pleaded no contest in December to voluntary manslaughter in the December 3, 2016, killing of Samantha Lang.
Lang’s body was found in a Long Beach flood control basin that runs alongside the 1000 block of West Carson Street. Her abandoned and vandalized car had been located nearby a day earlier, at the bottom of the channel.
Johnson was convicted of robbery in Long Beach in 1997 and also has prior convictions for possession of a controlled substance in San Bernardino, vehicle theft and reckless driving while fleeing a police officer that range from 2008-13, according to the criminal complaint.
Johnson’s sister Rebecca told the Long Beach Press-Telegram that, despite the confession, her brother maintains Lang’s death was an accident and that he panicked and tried to hide the body. The sister said Johnson often engaged in sex with past girlfriends that included asphyxiation.
Her family and friends told the newspaper that the couple had been involved with drugs but Lang had taken steps to get clean and had broken off the relationship and was involved with another man.
The family also blamed a judge for his lenient handling of Johnson.
Fewer than two months before he killed Lang, Johnson was charged with bringing drugs into the Long Beach jail and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Tomson Ong sentenced him to a residential drug treatment program rather than jail time after the defendant begged for mercy, the newspaper reported.
“If I mess up, I’ll be sitting here again in front of you within months. I know that,” Johnson told Ong in October 2016, according to the Press-Telegram.
Johnson failed to complete the program and was arrested three days after Lang’s body was found.
“His letting (Johnson) go back out basically killed my daughter” Lang’s mother, Brenda Jones, told the newspaper. “If he had been sentenced to jail she would still be here.”