Neal and Johnson’s Murderer Convicted of First-Degree

(Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Westside Current on June 5 and is reprinted with permission.)

Abelardo Bon, 28, was convicted of murder.
This is a 2021 mugshot of Abelardo.                                  Photo: Glendale Police Department.

After a full day of deliberations, a 15-member jury reached a unanimous verdict on Wednesday, June 5, convicting Abelardo Bon of first-degree murder in the tragic deaths of Courtney Johnson and Brandon Neal, both 31 years old.

The courtroom atmosphere was heavy with emotion as the verdict was read. The parents of both victims, overwhelmed, broke down in tears after the three week trial.

The two young adults were shot on April 15, 2022, in their Venice Beach home. After the shooting Johnson’s uncle Steve Brown described the young woman as one of the most loving and creative people he knew. “She had a heart of gold and was a fantastic artist who had a way with poetry.”

Her brother wrote on a go-fund me page “that Courtney was very bright, very funny – one of the funniest people I knew. She was the most loving and caring. She loved her family so much, especially her brother. She put me and my friends on to good style, good music and was my number one fan. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her sisterhood.”

Brad Neal said that his son Brandon was kind and compassionate and an artist. He added that his son grew up in Venice and that he loved his family and friends.

“People that know him love him so much. He was a character. It’s a shocker. To have them taken away in an instant is quite difficult.” Neal said after the murder. “He was sensitive and what I loved about him the most. He couldn’t lie. That’s a powerful thing.”

His best friend Josh Ohaua said that Brandon was really popular and had “moral fiber unlike anyone I’ve ever known.”

During closing arguments, Bon, 28, sat slumped over next to his two public defenders while DA Rachel Hope Hardiman reminded jurors of the extensive and incriminating evidence presented over the past three weeks. The evidence included video footage of the alleged suspect, who after shooting the sleeping couple around 3 a.m. in their bedroom, spent four hours rummaging through the victims’ garage.

At one point during the video, the suspect can be seen making the sign of the cross across his chest as if praying, only to abruptly return to stealing more items, including a cell phone which would ultimately lead to his arrest a month later on May 19.

“It took him four hours to collect things he wanted to steal,” Harriman told the jurors after describing the killings as an “absolute ambush and mutilation.”

Additional evidence included video footage of the suspect walking in front of the targeted house 16 minutes before two loud gun shots could be heard. The disturbing sound, 6 seconds apart, had been recorded on a neighbor’s ring camera and later played to the jurors, leaving many visibly upset.

The most damning evidence was perhaps testimony from Bon’s ex-girlfriend who confirmed that the suspect in the courtroom was the same person seen in the video footage captured inside the garage.

The witness went on to reveal that during one of their dates, Bon told her that he had been “involved in a death” earlier that day. She said she tried to change the subject, assuming Bon was just trying to impress her. Further implicating Bon, was his cell phone which contained photos of himself, along with a green gun in his car, the same gun connected with the fatal shootings.

On the day of the shootings, Courtney Johnson’s mother Lynn Johnson became worried after not hearing from her daughter whom she spoke with daily.

“I was able to track her cell phone and see where it was located. It didn’t make any sense because it wasn’t a familiar area. That’s when I got a dreadful feeling that something was wrong. I planned to go to that location the following morning, but when I left the house, there were two detectives standing at my front door, and they told me what had happened to my daughter,” a tearful Johnson told Westside Current.

Detectives were able to locate that cell phone, along with another stolen cell phone and vehicle titles belonging to Brandon Neal less than a mile away from Bon’s mother’s house, and 16 miles away from the crime scene. The suspect was later arrested following a police pursuit which saw the suspect throw his gun outside the car window.

“Why toss the gun,” asked the DA who earlier showed jurors a graphic photo of how the couple was found. Gasps could be heard among family and friends, many of whom wiped away tears.

Public Defender Romina Rachel Aghai’s defense centered around the detectives motives and arguing that it was a sloppy investigation.

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