Trials nearing for two separate Cheyenne County murder cases - kotanow.com- Scottsbluff Area News, Sports, and Weather

Trials nearing for two separate Cheyenne County murder cases

Nebraska prosecutors have raised the charge against a Texas man to first-degree murder.

Forty-seven-year-old Craig Johnson, of Lovelady, Texas, already had pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder. Prosecutors say he killed his girlfriend, 42-year-old April Smith, on Dec. 11, 2011, at the home they shared eight miles west of Sidney in the Nebraska Panhandle.

Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub says new information obtained by investigators convinced him that Johnson's was a first-degree murder case.

Authorities say Johnson became enraged at Smith because she'd let her estranged husband fix her vehicle. People also reported to police that Smith planned to reconcile with her husband.

A trial date hasn't been set.

Also in Cheyenne County District Court, 53-year-old Larry Martinez has pleaded not guilty to a murder and a weapons charge.

Police say Martinez shot 30-year-old Mandy Kershman, of Sidney, in June because he was angry about a text message from her.

Last week Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub said he wouldn't seek the death penalty if Martinez were convicted.

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