Longtime KSKA DJ Marvell Johnson Shot, Killed

Long-time KSKA DJ Marvell Johnson was shot and killed on Tuesday. His 16-year-old foster son has admitted to the crime and is being charged with murder. 

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According to a police department release, a student reported the shooting to a school police officer early Tuesday morning. When officers arrived at Johnson’s house, they found him dead in his bedroom from several gunshot wounds.

Johnson’s 16-year-old foster child, Peter John Henry, was asleep in another room. When questioning Henry, the police learned the boy was angry with Johnson for grounding him because he used the drug Spice and because Johnson took his vapor cigarette charger. Henry admitted to stealing the ammunition he used from a local department store. The theft was caught on tape.

The student who reported the murder told police that Henry said he was going to shoot Johnson, but the student did not believe him.

Henry told police he tried to make the shooting look like a robbery. He emptied Johnson’s wallet and left it in front of the house and stole other items. Henry also allegedly threatened to kill the student if he didn’t help him destroy evidence by washing the gun in a nearby creek and destroying the home’s surveillance cameras.

Marvell Johnson
Marvell Johnson

Henry has been charged as an adult and is being held without bail.

The 64-year-old Johnson hosted Soul to Soul on KSKA-Anchorage for 35 years. On the show, Johnson seamlessly flowed between new and old soul music. Between sets he helped connect inmates in Alaska’s prisons with their loved ones by sharing dedications and requests.

“You know, back in the day, people couldn’t wait until Saturday night to call Marvell Johnson to make a request or a dedication,” recalled Reggie Ward, Johnson’s long-time friend and fellow DJ. “It was so special for a lot of people. And it’s helped so many people, in terms of people maybe having relationship problems or just the fact that they get to hear their names mentioned on the radio. It was a huge deal.”

Ward said Soul to Soul helped start urban radio in Alaska. Johnson trained and mentored many of the DJs at KSKA, KNBA, and around Anchorage.

“He set the tone. He set the example, not so much in his words but in his actions. He was so professional and he loved what he did. We all basically just took his lead.”

When Johnson wasn’t mixing music, he was out fishing, working at UAA in the facilities department, or caring for his foster children.

Anne Hillman is the healthy communities editor at Alaska Public Media and a host of Hometown, Alaska. Reach her at ahillman@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Anne here.

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