He was kidnapped by men in a van while riding his bike before being burned to the point his face was unrecognizable. Nearly 10 years later, his killers are still on the loose.
Joshua Johnson, 18 at the time, was riding his bike in the area of Mable Butler Avenue and Wilts Street in Orlando, Florida when he was forced into a dark-colored van by at least two unidentified Black men on Aug. 15, 2012, according to police.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that the situation became more gruesome from there. Johnson's body was burned with his clothes tatters and his face unrecognizable.
Police found his body around 6 p.m. Aug. 6, 2021, in the bathroom of a uninhabited home on Mertimoor Cirlce in Pine Hills. The men set the bathroom on fire, likely in attempt to hide the evidence, police Det. Chris Haas told the Orlando Sentinel in 2015.
"His last moments must have been the most terrifying of his life," said Haas, a 20-year veteran with the department who has investigated nearly 100 homicides. "Josh knew he was going to die. He knew his death was imminent. He had to have been terrified for that whole period."
Johnson was riding his bike while dragging another in the afternoon of Aug. 15, when the incident happened. The 18-year-old was heading back home from downtown, where he enrolled at Orlando Tech to get his GED and learn how to make music videos, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Johnson was just around the corner from his grandmother's home, where he lived.
"I have to take it one day at a time," Patricia Davis, Johnson's grandmother, told ClickOrlando.com in 2013. "A lot of days don't be good days, but when Wednesday comes it's not a good day for me."
Some young boys who witnessed the incident went to Johnson's home and told his family about what happened. There were reportedly at least two Black men who got out of the vehicle and began fighting Johnson before throwing him in the back of the van.
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"They said, 'Somebody jacked [Josh],'" Davis told the Orlando Sentinel in 2015. "I didn't believe it at first.
The family called police, but they were unable to find Johnson until he was dead the next day.
Haas told the Orlando Sentinel that police don't know of a motive for the abduction and killing, though he has some theories. Haas said Johnson might have stolen something from one of the killers as he was known to steal things.
"I have so many unanswered questions," Davis said in 2015. "I don't why he was taken. If he was already dead, why did they take him into a house and burn him? He was already dead."
Haas told the Orlando Sentinel that the killers likely knew Johnson.
Still, there has been no arrests in connection to the case, leaving the family searching for answers.
"He wouldn't want us to give up on him," Whitney Davis, Johnson's sister, told ClickOrlando.com in 2013. "I think about him all the time and he's always on my mind. Every time I look at my son, it reminds me of my brother."
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