Suspect denies killing pregnant girlfriend - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Suspect denies killing pregnant girlfriend

Tonya Johnson Tonya Johnson
Tarence Nelson Tarence Nelson

By Lori Brown - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend late last week in Arlington appeared in court Tuesday to deny those charges.

The victim, Tonya Johnson, 35, taught at Brownsville Road Optional School for four years.  Tarence Nelson, the man who police say murdered Johnson and her 8-month-old fetus last week, appeared in court for the first time Tuesday through a video arraignment.

"You're charged with first degree murder. Two counts," the judge said. "Carries life or death. No bond set."

Nelson listened as the judge explained his rights.  Attorney Leslie Ballin, who has not yet been retained by Nelson, said according to a court document, prosecutors don't have much evidence against Nelson.

"It alleges, and I'm paraphrasing, that he was in the area at the time of the homicide, that there was a vehicle seen parked at his home, and that a person matching his description was seen going from the home to the car," Ballin said.

The document goes on to say that Johnson's cell phone showed there was a call with Nelson's phone number before the murder.  Cell tower information shows Nelson was close to Johnson's home at the time of the homicide.

"If that's what the proof is, that doesn't add up to a homicide charge to me," Ballin said.

Johnson's family and friends told investigators that Nelson was the father of baby Johnson was about to deliver, and he had wanted her to have an abortion.

Nelson will appear in court again in two weeks.

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