Second man charged in slaying of pregnant Bradenton woman to stand trial

jdeleon@bradenton.comJuly 13, 2014 

BRADENTON -- A man charged with killing a 19-year-old Bradenton woman and her unborn child during an armed home invasion will stand trial this week.

Everrick Houston is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of armed burglary of a dwelling.

Early on July 12, 2009, Crystal Johnson was shot when at least two armed, masked men stormed into the apartment she shared with her boyfriend, mother and younger sister. Gunfire was exchanged between Johnson's boyfriend and the gunmen.

Johnson later died at Manatee Memorial Hospital. Her baby, Lariah Funsch, was delivered by emergency C-section but died eight hours lat

er at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Jury selection in the trial of Houston will begin Monday morning.

Susan Moore has been waiting for justice for the daughter and granddaughter she lost.

"The DNA don't lie," Moore said. "I am looking forward to this trial and for Houston to have to finally admit that he murdered my daughter and granddaughter."

Houston was first charged after being taken to the hospital for a gunshot wound immediately after the armed home invasion.

Investigators were able to confirm that the DNA from the blood on his clothes at the hospital matched blood found about 100 feet south of the apartment complex where Johnson lived.

In 2010, the State Attorney's Office was forced to drop the charges against Houston, however, when a judge ruled deputies had illegally seized Houston's bloodied clothes at the hospital and suppressed the DNA evidence. The effort to pursue the prosecution of Houston never stopped, though.

While Houston was in prison on drug charges, investigators were able to legally obtain a blood sample from Houston to connect him to the crime scene.

Assistant Public Defender Carolyn Schlemmer and Assistant State Attorney Art Brown each declined to comment about the case.

Brown did say that the trial is expected to last about a week.

"Houston has his family convinced that the DNA won't hold up in court," Moore said. "The DNA is going to stand up in court, because it puts him there."

Moore still recalls that terrifying morning vividly.

"They didn't give us a chance to run and hide," Moore said. "I think that's what my baby was trying to do, run away. Either that or she was just coming out of the bathroom.

"As soon as they got the door open, the bullets went flying."

Five years later, Moore said she knows God is on her side.

"There is not a morning that goes by that I don't pray, and there is not a morning that goes by that I don't cry or a night that I cry myself to sleep," Moore said. "Most of all, I would love to know what my granddaughter would be like today, and my daughter."

Houston is the second suspect to stand trial for death of Johnson and her baby.

Gregory Kennon, 25, was convicted Feb. 17, 2012, on two counts of murder and armed burglary and later sentenced to life in prison. He is appealing the sentence.

Investigators believe there is a third suspect, but they have never been able to identify anyone, according to Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow.

Moore said she is hopeful the trial will result in a guilty verdict.

"If not, I don't know where else to go," Moore said. "I will never stop praying. That is one thing that has brought me some closure."

Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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