Police: Victim of Spencer murder is ex-wife of suspect, suspect still on the run
SPENCER — Police investigators have identified the victim of a Wednesday morning homicide as Toney Ann Johnson, the ex-wife of suspect Rodney Roberto Wallace.
Johnson, 34, of 705 Fourth St., was found in the yard between her home and another at 707 Fourth St.
Police Chief Michael James said authorities responded to a reported assault in progress at the home at 8:49 a.m. Spencer Police and area law enforcement are searching for Wallace, whom they believe could be driving a black 1998 Mazda Protege with the license CBD-5377.
James said a pickup Wallace was originally operating has been recovered. An earlier bulletin indicated Wallace was possibly driving a 1994 white Ford F-150. Bulletins released as late as 7:30 p.m. indicated Wallace could still be in a pickup.
Spencer Police say Wallace may be armed and should be considered extremely dangerous. Officials have not said how Johnson was killed.
Investigators with the Spencer Police Department, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and SBI were on the scene for much of the day.
Nearby schools — North Rowan elementary, middle and high — were placed in a code yellow lockdown as a precaution. Code yellow means that classes continue as usual, but all doors are locked and secured, students do not leave the building and there are no outside activities. Parents can enter, but the doors remain locked after they enter or leave, Rowan-Salisbury School System spokeswoman Rita Foil said.
Principals at those schools sent ConnectED messages to parents.
Court records show Johnson is the ex-wife of Wallace and was as recently as January granted a divorce. The couple, records show, have one child together, and had been married since July 2009, but had been separated since July 2012.
In July 2011, Johnson sought temporary custody of the couple’s then 1-year-old son because she feared for his safety.
Johnson also said in court filings Wallace had previously threatened to storm the babysitter’s home to remove their son and hide the child, threatened to kill her if she revealed certain information about him, has a history of domestic violence, regularly abuses marijuana, abandoned her and had numerous affairs with several different women.
Court records show the couple’s relationship took a tumultuous turn in the last few years when Wallace was charged with domestic related incidents.
On March 24, Wallace pleaded guilty to and was found guilty of misdemeanor criminal trespass. Court records show the incident occurred Jan. 31. During the same district court hearing, Wallace pleaded guilty to and was found guilty of misdemeanor assault on a female from a Jan. 29 incident. The courts agreed to dismiss a misdemeanor stalking charge from Nov. 29 and he was given a year of supervised probation. Wallace was also ordered to take, complete and pay for the batterer’s intervention program. He was also ordered not to contact Johnson other than custody visits at the visitation station. He could also take up visitation issues through Johnson’s father, court records said.
Johnson said in court records she went to her car Jan. 29 to go to work around 8:30 a.m. and her windshield wipers were missing. She received a text message from Wallace asking her to come to his apartment, just one street behind her Fourth Street home. She said the only reason she went was to retrieve her wipers and let her ex-husband know she’d moved on since their divorce.
He became upset and wouldn’t let her leave, Johnson wrote in a statement. She begged him to let her leave and tried to run to the door to get away. The statement said Wallace shoved Johnson and pushed her into furniture leaving bruises on her chest, leg and arms. Johnson said Wallace also cut her clothes off with a razor blade.
On Sept. 22, 2011, Wallace pleaded not guilty to and was found not guilty of misdemeanor assault on a female, stemming from a July 24 incident. He was ordered to not have contact with Johnson or her family. During the same September hearing, Wallace pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and was found not guilty, which stemmed from the same July incident. Court records show Wallace violated a domestic violence protective order filed July 29 where Johnson was the victim. The violation was dismissed at the close of the state’s evidence, court records said.
On Sept. 15, 2011, the courts dismissed a misdemeanor assault on a female charge that stemmed from a May 2011 incident involving a girlfriend who said Wallace came to their Elm Street home drunk, dragged her out of the bed and onto the floor. He grabbed the woman by the arm, threw her outside by her shirt and cut her keys off her neck, court records said. Records said the state asked to continue the case, but it was denied and the state offered no evidence.
Kevin Letzgus has lived in the neighborhood less than a month, but said on Wednesday morning around 8:45 he heard a woman screaming. Letzgus said he was letting his dogs out when he heard what he believed was an argument. He couldn’t make out what was being said, but said she was “hollering something.”
He actually thought the screaming was coming from the opposite side of the street, but later thought it may have been the victim.
Letzgus admits he didn’t think anything of the screams until he learned police were investigating a murder later in the morning. He spoke with another neighbor who said he too heard a woman screaming.
Matthew Bolen has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years and is shocked by the incident.
“I’ve never seen this in my life. I’ve never seen any problems in this area,” he said.
He said he’s seen Johnson, but didn’t know her personally.
One woman, who asked to not be named, said her mother once dated Wallace, but never had any violent encounters with him. The woman, who lives in Hawkinstown, drove to the neighborhood just to see what occurred.
The woman said her mother dated Wallace on and off for about six months, but broke the relationship off when she discovered he was married. According to the woman, Wallace found her mother in Salisbury and tried to rekindle their relationship about two months ago. The woman said she’d met Wallace a couple of times and said he “seemed all right” and a “happy-go-lucky” guy.
Another neighbor who said he walks the neighborhood every morning was upset to know Johnson was dead. He said he often stopped on his walks to talk to her, but didn’t when he saw Wallace around.
He said Wallace never looked approachable. The neighbor said he believed Johnson lived at the home for a couple of years, but said he had not seen her in about a month.
“I thought the relationship was over. She was a nice person,” the man said.
The neighbor blamed himself for not walking at his usual morning time on Wednesday, saying he may have been able to somehow prevent Johnson’s death.
In March 1994, Wallace, also known as “Touch,” was convicted of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, maintaining a dwelling for distribution of crack cocaine and conspiracy to possess firearms during a drug trafficking crime. Five other men were also charged with similar offenses.
Federal court records said Wallace and the men were responsible for an organized crime scheme from the spring of 1989 until August 1990 where they mailed packages of powder cocaine from Los Angeles to Kinston, N.C. on a weekly basis.
Wallace was released May 2008 from an Arizona federal prison. He violated the terms of probation with his 2011 arrests and subsequent failed drug test. Federal court records show his probation officer indicated Wallace tested positive for marijuana. He was then placed on 90 more days of supervision to address his noncompliance. His supervised probation with the U.S. Probation Office ended in 2013.
Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Rodney Wallace is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245 or the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.