Her January homicide in Barefoot Bay has to rank as one of the most cruel in recent Brevard County history. The motive? Investigators say it was nothing more than greed.
Early Wednesday morning, Brevard County Sheriff’s agents arrested 36-year-old Jennifer Rose Trent and charged her with premeditated first-degree murder in a quiet, sunny community filled with retirees looking to live out their golden years in peace and quiet.
That quiet was shattered close to midnight on Jan. 22, when investigators performing a well-being check instead discovered Johnston’s body.
Trent showed no reaction throughout the investigation and arrest except to thank investigators for not arresting her in front of her elementary school-aged son, authorities said. Her icy demeanor even gave agents pause.
„If you were to meet this woman, she is very cold, no emotion,“ said Maj. Tod Goodyear. „It’s no surprise that she could do this.“
Goodyear was referring to how Johnston’s kindness was repaid.
The 70-year-old allowed Trent and her son to move in with her recently, giving her a place to live. Instead of gratitude, she is accused of bashing Johnston in the head and dragging her out to a shed behind her home, leaving her for dead.
But Johnston was resilient and stayed alive for several days, according to the Medical Examiner. That was when Trent went out back and suffocated the woman, investigators said.
Meanwhile she ran up Johnston’s credit card, making $15,000 in unauthorized purchases, investigators said. She was also in possession of forged letters, giving her complete access and ownership of Johnston’s money and home. She told neighbors that Johnston had gone on a trip.
But she had not moved quickly enough by the time Johnston’s family members had called authorities to report not having heard from her in several days, which was unusual. That’s when investigators discovered Johnston’s lifeless body.
„If family hadn’t called, she would have continued to use the credit card and money,“ Goodyear said. „She was starting to build a story to say the woman had gone away. She wanted to keep her hidden.“
Investigators believe Trent was planning to move the body from the shed to another location but her scheme was foiled by the phone call from family members.
„People like me and you can’t comprehend putting someone in the shed and leaving them there to die,“ Goodyear said. „And it was all for greed. That’s how she thanked (Johnston) for taking her in. It shows what people will do for themselves. Her whole point was simply to take care of herself.“
Now two families grieve. A son will be forced to grow up without his mom while another family mourns the loss of theirs.
At least they can receive the small comfort in knowing that investigators are confident they have the person responsible behind bars, a person Johnston apparently made the fatal mistake of trusting.