Two suspects missed court appearance the day KPD officer was shot

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Cleven J. Johnson's adult criminal record began barely three months after his eighteenth birthday.

James Willie Murry has done federal time behind bars, and both were supposed to be in court Tuesday after being arrested on new charges last week.

So, the question is: Why weren't they awaiting their court date, in jail?

The short answer is bail.

The larger question is: How much did the bail-setter know before letting both out for less than $4,000.

The suspects’ Bail bondsman Tim Beshea says, “When we look at a young guy--he was here (Tuesday) -- I never thought he would be capable of doing something like this.”

No doubt, the folks at East Knoxville's Unchained Bail Bonds know of 26-year-old Cleven Johnson and 32-year-old James Wille Murray.

Suspects’ bail bondsman Mark Spears says, “He's not really been a fugitive, so to say.
He's just been a regular client.”

That is, until, they missed court Tuesday on charges of possessing a Tec 9mm pistol and marijuana. They’re charges brought after an officer pulled them over on Porter Avenue last Friday for not wearing seat belts.

The bonds to get both out of jail in the meantime?

Beshea says it cost “…about 35-hundred dollars."

Freeing both -- police allege -- to break into 6600 Rockbridge Lane Tuesday afternoon, and for Johnson to shoot Knoxville officer Norman Rickman.

…This despite Johnson's criminal record dating back seven-and-a-half years on convictions for criminal impersonation, domestic assault, and animal abuse.

He has charges pending for crack possession, weapons, theft, and evading arrest.

Murray had been out more than a year, after serving more than 12 years in at least four federal prisons for carjacking.

Beshea says, “If you would set the bonds higher, a lot of times you would circumvent these guys from doing all these things because they won't get out of jail to do it.”

Knox County Judicial Commissioner Richard Major tells Volunteer TV they -- the commissioners -- count on police and/or prosecutors to provide most of that background.

Knoxville police aren't commenting.

The District Attorney General's office isn't returning phone calls.

Unchained's Bail Bondsmen say no reason to consider Johnson a risk. Spears says, “He's been a good customer, that's the best way I can say it. He's been a good customer.”

The bondsmen say bail companies don't have access to clients’ criminal records. That's why they get co-signers on the promissory notes.

But court clerks and the internet gave us plenty on Johnson and Murry with little more than a few phone calls and word searches.


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