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Man Gets Death Penalty for Murdering Missouri Woman

June 10, 1994

MODESTO, Calif. (AP) _ A man was sentenced to die for killing an elderly woman by beating her head ″like bongos″ to see how it would feel.

A judge followed a jury’s recommendation and gave David Johnsen the death penalty Thursday for the March 1992 murder of Juanita Bragg, 74, of Neosho, Mo. He also was convicted of trying to murder her husband, Leo Paul Bragg.

The couple were attacked in their daughter’s Modesto home.

Prosecutors said Johnsen, 24, wrote in his diary: ″I wanted to know what it would feel like to kill. I wanted to see if I could get away with it.″

They said Johnsen also wrote that he hit the couple repeatedly ″but they wouldn’t die. I began playing their heads like bongos, but they still weren’t dead.″

Death penalty cases are automatically appealed to the state Supreme Court.