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Report: Teens Brendan Johnson and Cassie Rieb burned, tried to dismember his grandma's body

Categories: Colorado Crimes

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Cassandra Rieb in a Facebook photo. More photos and a video below.
Update: Our original post about the arrest of Sterling teens Brendan Johnson and Cassandra Rieb for allegedly murdering his grandparents, Charles and Shirley Severance, contained plenty of unsettling information; see our previous coverage below. But claims from a newly released arrest affidavit in the case are infinitely more shocking.

Among the assertions: Shirley begged for her life while being repeatedly stabbed, and after she was killed, Johnson and Rieb tried but failed to chop up her body while she was being incinerated. Moreover, the murders were committed nine days before they were reported. Additional photos and details below.

A warning before we go on: Information from the arrest affidavit, shared by both 9News and 7News, may disturb some readers.

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Brendan Johnson, in a now-deleted photo from his Facebook page.
As we reported, Johnson called police on May 29 on a supposed medical call for his grandfather. Charles was dead upon the cops' arrival, and the fact that he had been killed a week-plus earlier goes a long way toward explaining why an autopsy didn't find immediate signs of trauma to his body.

In a subsequent interview, Johnson reportedly maintained that Charles had given him a couple of checks adding up to $4,500, as well as permission to use his 2009 Chevy truck. He's said to have used the money and vehicle to attend a concert in Denver during the days leading up to the body's discovery.

Shirley, for her part, was missing, and in a separate interview with investigators, Rieb allegedly denied knowledge of her whereabouts -- although the report quotes her as admitting that Johnson actually wrote and signed the checks supposedly given to him by Charles.

Armed with this information, the cops went back to Johnson. The affidavit says he and Reib subsequently confessed to killing the Severances, and their explanations about the botched process are chilling.

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Another meme from Johnson's Facebook page.
The murder plot reportedly came together in early May, with the goal focusing on Johnson collecting his inheritance early.

On May 20, the affidavit says, Johnson and Rieb entered the Severances' place, with him assigned to smother Charles and her tasked with doing the same to Shirley. But things didn't go as planned.

The document says Charles struggled so much that Johnson eventually had to choke him to death -- although the seventy-year-old may have suffered a fatal heart attack while fighting for his life. And Shirley was even less cooperative. She apparently tried to run away, and when she couldn't escape, she pleaded with the teens not to kill her and even offered them money to go away.

They didn't. Johnson reportedly allowed her to get some water -- but while she was drinking, he tried to cut her throat. Instead, he slashed her jaw, prompting Shirley to try fleeing again. She failed to get free, however, and Johnson is accused of repeatedly stabbing her as she pleaded for her life.

Finally, Johnson strangled Shirley with a string, the affidavit says. Investigators believe that's what finally killed her.

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Another photo of Rieb from Facebook.
The teens took the couple's bodies to a bedroom and left them there until the next day, police say. After the cleanup at the murder site was complete, they used the truck to drive Shirley's body to Prewitt Reservoir, a short drive from Sterling. There, they're accused of dousing it with gas and setting it ablaze -- and while it burned, they tried to hack off an arm and a leg.

The body was initially buried in a reservoir fire pit. But they apparently didn't feel it was secure enough there, so they returned on May 28, dug it up and took it to a remote location in Nebraska before returning home. Johnson alerted the cops to Charles's death the next day.

Johnson and Rieb made their first court appearance yesterday, where they were formally charged with two counts apiece of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and theft. On top of that, Johnson faces two forgery charges.

Look below to see a brief 7News update on the case, followed by our original post.

Continue for our previous coverage of the Brendan Johnson and Cassandra Rieb arrests, including additional photos and a video.



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40 comments
Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer

Westword: Look, it's a white teen. We're write writers here at the paper and we don't really reflect on our white bias, so every time there is a horrific crime committed by a white person, we're going to introduce it as if it should be unexpected. Why? Because as white people we identify with white people and never think of ourselves as being capable of such crimes. Now, black people or Latinos or anyone else that we don't consider white... that's a different story. We NEVER expect you our readers to be shocked, because we white writers are never shocked, so we NEVER start a story with "This will surprise you... or you'd never expect this person to act that way". I mean, after all, they're not white people, right? They're capable of anything.

Chad Kautzer
Chad Kautzer

Thanks for making that point, Cynthia! I just saw the post and as with every Westword post about white crime (but only about white crime), they start with a lightly coded intro, which basically says: we don't usually expect white people to commit crimes, so prepare to be shocked." I try to comment every time I see it - which has been often - but they don't really care, unfortunately. Yet more evidence of the white staff/bias of Westword.

Nicky Bell
Nicky Bell

Both of them should be forfeit. Harvest the blood & organs you can use for others and toss the rest out. Same with rapists and child molesters. Cut down the population and recycle. Do the same to anyone that doesn't agree...

Brian Lowe
Brian Lowe

But 2012 is only like 4 dollars... Why?

Jimmy Jonas
Jimmy Jonas

Surely going to Hell! Sick lil fuckers.

Rhonda Diltz
Rhonda Diltz

Cases like this are why, even as a liberal, I still believe in the death penalty.

Cynthia Barnes ૐ
Cynthia Barnes ૐ

By "typical American teenager" Westword means "white." And they are ALWAYS shocked.

Patrick Layman
Patrick Layman

Typical teens don't have pinpoint opiate pupils in their FB pictures, correct?

Betsy Fuller Fiore
Betsy Fuller Fiore

SOME readers may find it disturbing?? Who are the disturbed people that don't?

josifhaynes
josifhaynes

I use to work with brendon at McDonald. Never thought he was that kind of person But when you let drugs take over your life.you will do anything for money to get it the shit smdh

Stephen Felt
Stephen Felt

I thought the Westword was an entertainment paper not a regular paper. I expect stories like this in the Denver Post. Not here.

Sher Quintana
Sher Quintana

This is not a place for sensitivity...for them..they are brutal murderers..the family and everyone has to come to terms with that fact..sorry for the grandparents who suffered..and for the family that is left to deal with the wrath..

Ashley Kittrell
Ashley Kittrell

This case is clear-cut premeditated, cold blooded murder. Is colorado a death penalty state?

Stone Jugert
Stone Jugert

wow!! its a shame that these kids did this. their day of judgement will come. may the grandparents rest in peace.

Jen Stretch
Jen Stretch

wow, how terrible..... people are scary

Erika D Hruska
Erika D Hruska

please think before you post. We have a very small close knit community and there are questions and answers due to the family....I CAN say that Shirley was a wonderful woman and I will cherish the memories I have of working with her, NOT how her life ended. It is a trajedy and more light will be shed on it in the near future, but please respect our community and it's inhabitants by not spreading vile words and curses...Judgement will come at the time it is meant to. Please pray for the family and our community.

Bradford Ashington
Bradford Ashington

there are scarier worlds out there......ETs are probably sitting back laughing their tails off at our paranoid asses

Barbara Perez
Barbara Perez

Please use some sensitivity in your comments. There are other family members dealing with this tragedy. Brendan's mom has to deal with the loss of her parents and the fact her own child did this. He was part of a very loving family who had zero indication he was capable of such evil. Put yourself in her shoes...

Amber Rae
Amber Rae

Whew!! Their own grandchildren!?? Ouch. I wonder what they did to deserve this?? Spoil them with gifts prolly

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... Darkman ... enemy of the Dayman ...

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... you don't find inter-familial murder among American Family Values Christians to be entertaining?



DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Death is NOT a Penalty.


Death ENDS Suffering.



GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay everyone fears death so the death sentence is a penalty...but yes, death can end suffering.  I am a supporter of ending suffering...you?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@GuestWho "everyone fears death"


A laughably absurd false statement.


Death DOES end suffering. Doesn't sound like much of a penalty, when the alternative is the continued suffering and anguish of being locked in a cage for every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade for the rest of your life.


ymmv.




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