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Young mum killed in jealous rage

Friday, 6th February, 2015

By Michael Murphy

A man who bashed his partner to death in his mother’s home was yesterday sentenced in the Supreme Court in Broken Hill to a minimum jail term of 15 years and nine months.

Dareton man Dale Ryan Johnson, 27, was yesterday convicted of murdering his partner Cheree Anne Lawson in the bedroom of a house in Namatjira Avenue, near Dareton, on March 12, 2013.

Almost 20 friends and family - wearing T-shirts with a picture of the victim on the front and the words “We Want Justice” - travelled 300km to Broken Hill for the sentencing hearing yesterday.

Justice Hamill told the court that Johnson and his partner had been partying, drinking heavily and arguing before the “brutal assault” in a bedroom of Johnson’s mother’s home.

Johnson had a history of serious domestic violence on his partner, including hitting her with a brick and knocking her out just a month before her death.

In the final attack, the assault lasted for about half an hour, neighbours heard screaming coming from the house, and the victim had repeatedly pleaded to Johnson to stop hitting her.

The victim suffered extensive “blunt force trauma” to the head and especially her chest where she suffered multiple rib fractures.

The court was told that Johnson’s mother was at home at the time, and had tried to stop the violence but Johnson had told her to “shut up” or she would be next.

Johnson had tried to revive the victim and placed her body on a mattress and had combed her hair, the court heard.

Justice Hamill said it was a “brutal attack on a defenceless victim” but he acknowledged the murder was not premeditated and that Johnson did not intend to kill his victim.

Johnson had bashed his partner because he was jealous.

The court heard “moving statements” from the victim’s family and Justice Hamill said he understood that Cheree Lawson was a “charming and beautiful” woman who was “greatly loved in the community”.

Ms Lawson had three children under 10 years of age who are now being cared for by her mother.

Justice Hamill said the sentence had to reflect the brutal nature of the attack and that the community “cannot and will not tolerate domestic violence”.

He took into account Johnson’s early guilty plea and the fact Johnson’s early life experience was filled with drugs, alcohol and extreme domestic violence.

Johnson was sentenced to a maximum of 21 years in prison.

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