Cold Case Murder Suspect Pleads Not Guilty; Victim's Dad Reacts Emotionally

Cillfford Everell Reed, a 59-year-old Montana man and former Seattle resident, was arraigned in King County Superior Court in the 1996 murder of 28-year-old Sandi Johnson of Kirkland.


Clifford Everell Reed, a 59-year-old Montana man and former Seattle resident, pleaded not guilty Thursday to the 1996 murder of Sandi Johnson, a 28-year-old mother of two from Kirkland’s Kingsgate area.

Overcome with emotion, Johnson’s father, Kenneth Gilbert of Mountlake Terrace, almost collapsed outside the courtroom while trying to talk to reporters.

“It’s been so long, it’s been 16 years,” he said before tearing up. “I can’t speak anymore.”

Gilbert turned away from the cameras and quickly sat down on a bench in the lobby of the King County Courthouse’s 12th floor. The victim’s son, Sean Johnson, a 21-year-old soldier in the U.S. Army’s 3rd Stryker Brigade who recently returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord from a deployment to Afghanistan, rushed to his grandfather’s side.

Sandi Johnson disappeared on Sean Johnson's 5th birthday. He declined to speak with reporters.

Reed was extradited from Ravalli County, Mont., on Feb. 5. Arrested in December in Montana by cold case detectives with the King County Sheriff’s Office, Reed is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Sandi Rae Johnson. She disappeared on April 26, 1996, after leaving her house to join a friend for lunch. Her remains were not found until eight years later, along Highway 410 near Greenwater outside of Enumclaw.

Before the arraignment, Gilbert told Patch that in the years after his daughter’s disappearance, he and his wife would sometimes take drives on Highway 410 near Mount Rainier.

“My wife and I used to go up to Greenwater all the time,” he said. “We never knew we were so close.”

Reed remains in the King County Jail on bail of $5 million. He was ordered by Judge Barbara Linde to have no contact with Gilbert, the victim’s two children—Sean Johnson and Katie Johnson, 20—as well as three people who could be witnesses if the case goes to trial.

A case-setting hearing was set for March 14, a procedural step in which both the prosecution and defense prepare for a trial date to be set. If the case goes to trial, it could be months off.

Gilbert said before the arraignment that the arrest of the suspect after so many years brought no sense of closure. 

“I’m not happy with this man at all. It took years to find her,” he said. “As far as relief, you don’t get relief. There’s no closure when someone is missing or gone from you.”

Reed had been arrested shortly after the woman’s disappearance, but charges were not filed because Johnson’s remains could not be found.

Charging documents filed by King County prosecutors portray Reed as a man who held grudges against women he had previously been involved with, and claim a neighbor saw him driving Johnson’s car away from his home on the day of her disappearance. Johnson’s car was found just more than a mile from Reed’s residence at the time, in the Rainier Avenue area of Seattle.

Furthermore, the documents say Reed’s roommate told police that the suspect uncharacteristically vacuumed the residence’s carpet on the day of Johnson’s disappearance, then disposed of the vacuum’s contents, rented a carpet cleaner and cleaned the rug.

Reed, now a disabled auto mechanic from Victor, Mont., was a co-worker of Johnson at a Ford dealership in Kent and lived in Seattle at the time of her disappearance. He allegedly told friends that they were romantically involved and had an active sexual relationship. In fact, the charging documents say, while the two were friends, Johnson spurned Reed’s advances and finally told him “back off.”

Held after his arrest in the Ravalli County Jail in Montana, Reed had initially refused to cooperate with the extradition but gave up that fight later in December.

For previous Patch coverage of the case, click here.

Mona Lisa Tucker February 15, 2013 at 07:05 PM
I agree with Don , why bother with the sick nut, Sandi was my cousin, a beautiful woman , loving mother , and sweet person, There will never be clouser, I have and alway's will feel the pain , sorrow, and all the other emotion's that this sicko has caused the family. Another angel taken too early. WHY.
Don February 15, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Mona, I'm so sorry to hear you lost someone so special. Losing someone so close is a pain you carry for years. I lost my twin years ago to a freak who robbed and murdered him in such a brutal way I won't describe it. It changed me forever. I hope those affected to seek counseling. For some it helps, for others like myself only death will give me peace.
p.coop March 08, 2013 at 01:11 AM
I have known Cliff for at least 15 years now ;and I just have to say. I have never seen the person that you all are talking about .He cares about us and would travel 8 hours to see us; even though he was marred in to the family.I hate to tell him this way,but his other mom has passed away on the 27th of Feb.
Mona Lisa Tucker March 09, 2013 at 06:33 PM
p. coop, Sorry to here of your loss, But you seem to be saying that cliff is a good guy, how much did he care about my cousin when he did the thing's to her he did ,than dumped her , and lied about everything, it's not right that he went on with his life and sandi had to die because he is a sicko.He put everyone who loved sandi thru hell, What goes around comes around!!!..
Don March 10, 2013 at 04:10 PM
p.coop, Cliff is a murdering scum and deserves to die a painful death. Nobody give's a hoot about the Cliff you've known for 15 years. We know the sick, perverse, disgusting cowardly scum that brutally murdered an innocent woman. Justice will be served when this filth is no longer breathing.


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