Whitley County, Kentucky Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Federal Murder Conviction

LONDON, KY - The U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Kentucky is reporting that: AWoodbine, Ky., man, Daniel Scott Nantz, 33, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday, by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Wier, for the first-degree murder of a federal witness, Geri D. (Bays) Johnson.

According to the investigation and plea agreement, Nantz was engaged in multiple methamphetamine trafficking conspiracies throughout Whitley, Knox, and Laurel Counties, from March of 2017 through March of 2019.  In the Spring of 2019, some of Nantz’s methamphetamine sources of supply and co-conspirators were charged in federal indictments .  One such co-conspirator was Ms. Johnson.  Nantz began to grow increasingly concerned that he too would be charged in an indictment.

Prior to the murder, Nantz learned that Johnson had cooperated with law enforcement. Nantz discussed his fears regarding Ms. Johnson’s potential continued cooperation with multiple witnesses, as well as Ms. Johnson herself.  At the sentencing hearing, multiple witnesses testified to observing Nantz becoming increasingly violent towards Ms. Johnson, including witnessing Nantz shoot at Ms. Johnson.  On March 13, 2019, Nantz texted Ms. Johnson “I’ll kill you [expletive].”  On March 14, 2019, Nantz texted Ms. Johnson, “Your very dangerous for me. Very very dangerous.”  Then, on the morning of March 16, 2019, Nantz told a witness “Geri is talking to the feds.  I think she is telling.  If so, I’ll just kill her.”  Afterwards, a  note, handwritten by Nantz, was recovered from the murder scene, which read “Funeral/fed’s pulled [redacted name] and geri out asking questions.” 

Ultimately, on the afternoon of March 16, 2019, Nantz left an armed kidnapping that he was participating in to return to his secluded trailer in Steele Hollow.  Ms. Johnson was at Nantz’s residence watching his two minor children and desperately attempting to find a ride out of the area.  Text messages from Ms. Johnson’s phone show that she begged two friends for a ride from Nantz’s residence, and even asked Nantz himself for a ride away from the residence.

After he arrived at the residence, Nantz fired the first round at Ms. Johnson in the master bedroom of his trailer.  Then, Nantz ordered his children into their bedroom and Ms. Johnson fled outside with her belongings.  Nantz followed Ms. Johnson outside into the driveway, where he shot her in the back through her shoulder, with a stolen .38 special revolver.  Ms. Johnson continued to flee from the trailer, when Nantz fired a third round that pierced her neck.  A blood trail of approximately 127 feet established Ms. Johnson’s attempt to flee.  The autopsy revealed the round through Ms. Johnson’s neck ultimately caused her to asphyxiate on her blood.  Ms. Johnson was approximately 33 weeks pregnant at the time.   

After the shooting, Nantz drove Ms. Johnson’s body back to the kidnapping site, to pickup a friend.  Nantz then held up Ms. Johnson’s body while his friend drove the pair back to Nantz’s trailer.  Once back at his trailer, Nantz instructed his friend to “get the DVRs.”  Multiple witnesses testified that Nantz had a surveillance system connected to a DVR box that would have captured the front driveway where the murder occurred.  After instructing his friend on the DVRs, Nantz finally called 911 and started the drive from his residence to Baptist Health Hospital in Corbin, Kentucky.  Ms. Johnson was pronounced dead at the hospital.  Ms. Johnson’s daughter, Amelia Jo Johnson, was born via emergency Cesarean section, at approximately 33 weeks gestation.  Amelia passed away on March 19, 2019, due to brain damage caused by severe oxygen and blood deprivation due to her mother’s injuries.      

Nantz received sentencing enhancements for obstructing justice post-murder, for the destruction of the DVR(s), and for murdering a vulnerable victim, a woman in her third trimester.

“The conduct in this case was truly appalling, and certainly warranted the life sentence imposed,” said Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.  “In a disgraceful choice, Daniel Nantz elected to protect his illegal drug trafficking operation and self-interests, over the lives of two people – his girlfriend and her daughter.  This brutal act of cruel self-importance underscores how violent and serious the illegal methamphetamine trade has become.  I am hopeful that this sentence will provide some measure of justice to the victims and their family; and I want to commend the outstanding work of our law enforcement partners, whose dedicated efforts made this conviction and sentence possible.”

“Today, Daniel Nantz was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in federal prison for murdering Geri Johnson, who was pregnant,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Shawn Morrow.  “We are pleased with the life sentence.  Our hope is it brings some sense of justice to her loved ones and sends a message that Kentucky law enforcement is committed to seeking justice for crimes against innocent victims.  I want to commend the ATF London Office, Kentucky State Police, prosecutors, and our law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly on this case.”

United States Attorney Shier; ATF SAC Morrow; and Commissioner Phillip Burnett, Kentucky State Police, jointly announced the sentencing.

The investigation was conducted by the ATF and KSP.  The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna E. Reed.    

This case was prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s “Project Safe Neighborhoods” Program (PSN), which is a nationwide, crime reduction strategy aimed at decreasing violent crime in communities.  It involves a comprehensive approach to public safety — one that includes investigating and prosecuting crimes, along with prevention and reentry efforts.  In the Eastern District of Kentucky, U.S. Attorney Shier coordinates PSN efforts in cooperation with various federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

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