Trial Date Set for Johnia Berry Murder Suspect

Knoxville (WVLT) - Accused killer Tyler Lee Olson has been officially charged.

Volunteer TV's Jim Freeman is following the story.

Family and friends of Johnia Berry sat braced awaiting to see her accused killer walk into the courtroom for his arraignment.

Before Olson came in, Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz asked that all cameras be turned off in the courtroom, citing a rule that video and photography request must be made 48 hours in advance.

That was not possible because Olson's arrest was just announced the day before.

Olson faces a seven-count indictment, including three counts of felony murder, and one count of first degree murder.

The charges are in connection with the stabbing death of Johnia Berry and the attack on her roommate, Jason Aymami, in December 2004.

Initially, Knox County public defender Mark Stephens was going to take Olson's case.

But then, attorney Greg Isaacs announced he would take the case.

Isaacs immediately requested a gag order, saying it would hinder the jury selection process.

Judge Leibowitz denied the request.

Volunteer TV spoke to Isaacs about Olson's comments to TV cameras on Monday, where he's heard saying "I'm sorry...I never meant for this to happen."

And in response to a question of why he did it, Olson says "It was an accident."

"The comments yesterday, interesting. You had 20 questions, three responses, you had mics and light. We'll deal with that. It's unfortunate he didn't have a lawyer, it's a serious case that needs to be tried in a courtroom," said Isaacs.

Johnia Berry's biological father, John Tiller, says even though he gave her up for adoption when she was five years-old, it doesn't less his pain or emotion over what has happened.

"Truly, my emotions in the courtroom was was if I could get my hands on him, I'd end it now," said Tiller.

But he knows he just can't do that.

"I know you can't do that. You're not supposed to do that and all that sort of thing. He took such a great part of my life that I'll never get back," said Tiller.

John does have one keepsake.

It's Johnia's voice on his answering machine from a message she left about six hours before she was murdered.

"She said 'Dad, I just got off my second job, and I love you.' I've still got her voice on the tape. Last thing I have from her," said Tiller.

He says he listens to it often.

"When I hear it, it's the most special thing in my life, 'Dad, I love you,'" he said.

For Johnia's step mom, Donna Tiller, it wasn't your typical daughter/step-mother relationship.

"I picked her up from school a lot and we had a good time together. She was sort of my little girl and she loved to come and visit," said Donna Tiller.

But, no matter how many pleasant memories there are of Johnia, the tears still keep falling.

"We had tears of joy, but yet tears of sadness, just like the day we got the call that Johnia had been murdered. It's like starting all over again," said Donna Tiller.

Taylor Olson's trial date is set for March 3, 2008.

In the meantime, groundbreaking for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's new Johnia Berry DNA building in Strawberry Plains is coming up soon.

In addition, Johnia's sorority, Sigma Kappa, will join with the Girl Scouts on a Christmas toy drive for needy children.


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