Man indicted with killing woman after she left Starlight Theater - KCTV5

Man indicted for killing woman after she left Starlight Theater show

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Deanna Lieber Deanna Lieber
Calah Johnson Calah Johnson
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

An arrest has been made in a stray-bullet shooting in 2009 that shocked the Kansas City area and claimed the life of the top attorney for the Kansas education agency.

Calah D. Johnson has been indicted with second-degree murder and shooting a firearm into a motor vehicle. A grand jury handed down the indictment, and a judge on Friday set his bond at $500,000.

Johnson is serving time in a federal prison. Officials indicated that witnesses came forward that led to Johnson's arrest in the death of Deanna Lieber on the night of July 17, 2009.

Lieber had been to a Starlight Theater show with her then 13-year-old daughter, Tessa, and mother in law. The three had left the theater and were traveling on U.S. 71 when a bullet shattered the vehicle and struck Lieber, who was driving. This occurred in the southbound lanes near 59th Street.

She died immediately. Her death devastated the education community.

Police had looked for two vehicles, a purple Pontiac Grand Prix and a green Mercury Mountaineer, that were seen chasing each other in the area of 55th Street and 71 Highway at the time of the shooting. Police immediately pulled video from a traffic camera and identified the license plate of the cars, but were unable to get the case to court until now.

As the years passed, her family and friends despaired that an arrest would be made.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said it's never too late for justice. She praised detectives who worked the case tirelessly and never gave up in finding Lieber's killer.

"These charges are a long time in coming," she said. "It's never ever too late to bring justice to a family. I am so grateful to be able to announce these charges today."

Tessa Lieber, now 18 years old, attended the news conference. Lieber's father, Melvin Wackerle, said the family is relieved by an arrest, and praised the two detectives who wouldn't forget the case.

Wackerle described his granddaughter's plea to the two detectives who responded to the crime scene on that horrible night four years ago.

"Please find who did this to my Mommy," Wackerle quoted his granddaughter as saying at the time. "Their dedication and perseverance is what got us to this point today. We are very thankful to these two gentlemen."

He said for someone to fire a bullet in a populated area did so for foolish reasons or out of anger, and they intended to harm someone.

"This person must be held accountable," he said. "The court action doesn't change anything for Deanna's friends, family, husband and children. She is missed every day by every one of us."

According to Baker, traffic video showed Lieber's vehicle being hit by gunfire. A witness in 2012 identified Johnson as the shooter via a police photo lineup. A second witness in July claimed that Johnson had told him that "he shot the school teacher from Kansas," according to Baker's office.That man claimed that Johnson was firing at someone else as part of a dispute over a burglary at his girlfriend's apartment.

The Mountaineer was registered to Johnson's girlfriend at the time of the shooting. The driver of the purple Pontiac said she was being fired at by someone in the vehicle behind her. She said her boyfriend said he believed they were targeted because he had once dated the driver of the Mercury and blamed him for a break-in.

"We couldn't get there without witnesses willing to step up and do the right thing, which is tell us what they know about a criminal offense, so that we can march into that courtroom and try to get justice for families," Baker said.

In September 2009, Johnson denied any involvement in an interview with police.

Click here to read Lieber's obituary.

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