Jeffrey Johnston


It’s been almost a year since an early morning shooting on Shake Ridge Road left two people injured and another dead.

On Saturday, May 25, 2019, deputies surrounded Jeffrey Johnston, 64, who was found inside his residence on the property. Johnston suffered injuries from an assault that required hospitalization, as did a 42-year-old victim of a gunshot wound. Both were airlifted from the scene. Deputies determined that a 39-year-old female, identified as Vanessa Elizabeth Pew, was deceased on the scene.

After being transported by air ambulance and treated for his injuries, Johnston was then booked into Amador County Jail for Murder and Attempted Murder, with bail set at $1,000,000 for each charge. At a court hearing, that bail was removed and he is now in custody with no bail.

Johnston has been sitting in the Amador County Jail this past year, awaiting his trial date and his chance to tell his side of what happened on that morning, nearly one year ago.

Johnston had a pretrial hearing set for May 21, 2020, with a trial date set to start on September 15, 2020. Due to the upcoming trial and legal circumstances, very few details have been released or updated on Johnston’s case. However, the Ledger Dispatch did catch up with Johnston at the Amador County Jail. While he could not comment specifically on the pending case and the charges he faces, he did lead us to Michael Eslinger, Johnston’s friend and legal Power of Attorney for comment.

“In regards to Jeffrey’s criminal case, there is little I can say as we are in pretrial and awaiting the trial,” said Eslinger. “I had been visiting Jeffrey one day a week for the past year as his Power of Attorney as well as his connection to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) until I was required to stop visiting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was not good for him. In that time, I was suspended from NAMI Amador for six months, despite being elected Vice President, serving 12 years and coordinating five of the eight programs Amador offers.”

That suspension is directly related to Johnston’s case, according to Eslinger.

“When the article regarding Johnston came out on May 28, 2019, during NAMI Amador’s regular monthly membership meeting, I spoke with a coordinator of NAMI Amador and the President and the three of us decided that with Jeffrey being in NAMI Amador, attending our Connections group for eight years, graduating our Peer Group, and since I knew Jeffrey best, that I should make a statement about that day’s newspaper to the NAMI Amador Board, family support members, consumers and visitors,” said Eslinger. “Eleven months later, last month, I was suspended from NAMI Amador, receiving a letter that I broke Jeffrey’s confidentiality. The suspension is being investigated. I have never been challenged, counseled, advised, warned or written up for my personal support and investigation on behalf of Jeffrey. I am not sure why nearly a year later there is a problem.

“I believe Jeffrey was attacked and then charged with the crime,” Eslinger continued. “Again, details will come out in the courtroom that I hope vindicate this injustice. As Jeffrey’s Power of Attorney, I have been working with attorney’s and conducting my own investigation into the tragic events that took place a nearly a year ago. I hope to see this tragedy come to an end and for the truth to come out.

“It’s been a long and educational process. I am hopeful the trial is not delayed and that Jeffrey gets his chance to tell what happened. I also hope that my work with NAMI Amador will be resolved and the questions and investigation as to the actual events see my friend, Jeffrey, exonerated.”

With this week’s pretrial and the scheduled trial currently set for September 15, 2020, questions and conclusions into the year-long case are getting closer to being resolved.