Crime & Courts

Foster son pleads guilty to 2014 murder of longtime public radio host

Peter John Henry pleaded guilty Friday in Anchorage Superior Court to murdering his foster father, the public-radio DJ and personality Marvell Johnson, over a charger for an electronic cigarette.

Henry, now 18, will be sentenced to 60 years in jail and 10 years of probation if Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby accepts the plea deal at a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 2017, according to a statement from the Anchorage District Attorney's Office.

Henry's crime dates back to October 2014. According to a police affidavit, Henry shot his 64-year-old foster father several times in the family's East Anchorage home, stole money and valuables from Johnson, attempted to stage a fake robbery, then fell asleep in a downstairs bedroom. Police officers found Henry there asleep the next morning.

Henry told police he was angry at Johnson for searching his room and taking his e-cigarette charger. He said he had gone upstairs to Johnson's bedroom to kill Johnson, according to the affidavit signed by Anchorage Police Department Detective Monique Doll.

On Friday, Henry pleaded guilty to a first-degree murder charge. Under the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop the lesser charges of theft and tampering with physical evidence.

Henry was one of many Alaska foster children taken in by Johnson and his wife. The couple also had four biological children between them and hosted a long-running, late-night radio show, "Soul to Soul" on KSKA, on which he played soul music, hip-hop and rhythm and blues, and read letters from prisoners to those on the outside.

In a 2012 interview with the Anchorage Daily News, Johnson said he became a foster parent in 1992. The state has said he was a foster parent for more than 100 children, many of them coming out of the juvenile justice system.

"When you raise kids that aren't yours," Johnson told the reporter, "you do the best you can."

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.