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Ohio man gets 30 years to life for 1991 cold-case murder; tells court 'I am a monster'

Daniel Rees, 60, of Barberton, Ohio, has been sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison for the 1991 murder of Rachel Johnson of Tallmadge.

A man has been sentenced to 30 years to life in the murder of an Ohio woman more than three decades ago.

Daniel Rees, 60, of Barberton, pleaded guilty Friday in Summit County to aggravated murder in the 1991 death of Rachael Johnson in Akron, The (Akron) Beacon-Journal reported. Prosecutors agreed to change the underlying offense from rape to kidnapping as part of an agreement sparing the defendant a trial and a possible death sentence.

"I am a monster," Rees said in remarks to the court. "What I did is horrendous. The crime I did is horrendous."


Judge Susan Baker Ross sentenced Rees to life in prison with possible parole after 30 years, the most severe penalty in the state other than the death penalty at the time of the crime.

Johnson was found dead on March 30, 1991, in Akron’s Chapel Hill neighborhood. The Tallmadge woman suffered blunt force trauma and had been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times and set on fire, police said.

Rees was arrested in March 2020 after authorities said he was linked to the crime by DNA from distant relatives. A friend of the victim’s daughter who worked with the victim's sister at a printing company, Rees had no significant criminal history and hadn’t been a suspect in the case.

Defense attorneys unsuccessfully challenged the admissibility of their client's statement to investigators about Johnson's murder and DNA evidence collected from his trash, and plea talks began after the evidence was ruled admissible.

Defense attorney Joe Gorman said Rees isn't the same person he was three decades ago and didn't want the family to have to go through a trial. He also said it's likely his client, who will be 90 when he first comes up for parole, won't leave prison.


"This is a life sentence," Gorman said. "He understood that walking in here."

Rees apologized to Johnson’s family not just for her slaying but also for how he befriended them afterward, calling that "the worst thing to do." Family members expressed fury at the defendant, calling him a monster. The victim's sister, Leila Hanes, said he was "an abomination and a coward."

Larry Johnson, the father of the victim, had trouble delivering his remarks because he was so distraught.

"It never ends," he said. "They say ‘closure.’ What the hell is closure? I ask that you, your honor give him what he deserves, please. I’d like to see him spend a lifetime in prison."

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