On the night of June 26, 1994, 25-year-old Michael Johnston and 19-year-old Rochelle Robinson went to a friend’s house in Spanaway, Washington, in the United States, for a friendly game of “Magic: The Gathering,” a fantasy card game involving doing magical battle with wizards and monsters. Johnston, a married father of two, and Robinson had met through classes at Pierce Community College and bonded over their shared love of the game, before making friends with other fans of the game. On this evening they were all having a bit of harmless fun imagining fantastical magical battles, and it was just like many other times they had all come together for a game, but this night would prove to be different. No one would have known it at the time, but when Michael and Rochelle left to go home after the game, they were about to step off into a sinister unsolved mystery involving murder, psychics, and possible links to the occult.
The following day, less than 6 hours after the card game, a woman out for a leisurely walk stumbled across the grisly discovery of Michael’s body sprawled out on a dark, secluded stretch of road called Canyon Road East in Puyallup. When police arrived they quickly determined that he was lying next to Rochelle’s car, his throat had been cut, and he had been shot once in the head at point blank range. There was also forensic evidence that suggested that Michael had been handcuffed, then forced to kneel near the front of Rochelle’s car. Not long after, Rochelle’s body was also found partially hidden in shrubbery and a cardboard box about 5 miles away from Michael’s. She had been stabbed repeatedly and her throat slashed. A strange detail was that near her body was a portable picnic table and benches which police believe were brought there in a vehicle, possibly by the killer. Also odd is that Rochelle was wearing Michael’s shirt inside out. It was thought that they had been forced from the vehicle, after which they had been killed, and Fred Reinicke, who was a Detective for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department at the time, would say of it:
They were forced to dress hastily, Rochelle Robinson had Michael Johnston’s t-shirt on, inside out, when her body was found, and they were removed from her vehicle, probably at gunpoint. Law enforcement believes that Michael Johnston was a passive victim. That the real target was Rochelle Robinson. There were several, knife pricks in her neck, which would indicate to me that somebody held a knife to her throat, to force her to accompany him.
Michael’s car was later found in the parking lot of Spanaway Junior High School near Rochelle’s home, leading police to figure that they had left the game in two different cars and then headed out to that remote spot in one car. Considering that the area was well known as a bit of a “lover’s lane,” it was deduced that the only reason they had had for heading there was to have an intimate encounter. The scenario envisioned by the police was that someone had caught them in the act and dragged them from the vehicle, after which the killer had killed Michael, then driven Rochelle out to kill her as well, although it was not clear why he would drive her 5 miles away to kill her and then drive the car back to Michael’s body. It was thought that the killer was likely a jealous stalker of Rochelle or an ex-boyfriend who had gone insane with jealously and killed them in a rage. Rochelle had broken up with her boyfriend about four months prior to the murder, and he was questioned but cleared of any connection. Another possibility was that the very married Michael had been the target of his wife’s jealousy, but when she was questioned although she seemed to have known about the affair, there could be found no link between her and the murders, and so the investigation mostly focused on a connection to Rochelle.
It would soon be found that in the weeks leading up to the murders Rochelle had been acting paranoid and told friends that she thought she was being followed. She told a friend that a man was standing at her work staring at her and that he would follow her home, although the identity of this apparent stalker was never identified, nor could it be determined to what extent Rochelle had actually known him or what connection he really had to the murders. The case eventually went cold, with no suspects and no new leads, and so Michael’s wife, Janet, decided to hire a private investigator by the name of Jim Wright to speed things along.
During his own investigation, Wright supposedly found that Michael had been deeply into the occult and had had a near obsession with Magic: The Gathering, which made him suspect the game and the crimes were somehow linked to the occult and each other. In order to turn up more possible information, Wright then turned to Nancy Myer, a well-known psychic who had helped police on more than 300 homicides, and this was where things would get weird. She insisted that she not be told anything about the case or circumstances of the murders, saying “If you’re going to work psychically and work purely, you should not pre-read. You should go out there and work it cold.” She was then taken to the scene, although she didn’t know that, and she immediately began getting alleged visions and impressions of what had happened, and she claimed that she could psychically ascertain that Michael and the murderer knew each other from their involvement in black magic. She would say:
I would not be able to agree with the theory that would have Michael as an innocent you know, bystander, not the object of this killing. To me, from what I can sense, it’s the other way around. Michael was the actual object. They seem to be accusing him of, of violating some kind of regulations, it almost felt like a cult type of situation.
In this scenario, Michael had gotten caught up in a black magic cult and had done something that had displeased them, leading them to take him out of the picture. Myer also had other flashes of psychic insight at the scene. She claimed to be able to envision the three killers in her mind, even able to provide information for police sketches, and she said one in particular, an older man with complete control over his young accomplices, who she describes as being a “college professor,” had been the main mastermind. She also had a strong image in her mind of a stylized dragon winged medallion that she believes is an arcane symbol used by the cult.
Myer also suggested that the Magic: The Gathering game had had something to do with it, and also claimed that the game was Satanic and a window into paranormal forces, sort of like a Ouija board. For the record, as someone with experience playing this game in my younger days, this writer can say that it is typically just a bunch of nerds sitting around playing a goofy fantasy card game, having a good time and staying out of other trouble they could be up to. It is the least Satanic and demonic thing in the world, but then again, I’m not the psychic. The police didn’t see a connection either, and considered the game to be completely unrelated to the murders, but the media ran with it, and most headlines about it mentioned the occult and the sinister paranormal connections with the Magic: The Gathering game. It was being treated by the news as an occult murder orbited by sinister supernatural forces and all linked to this Satanic game, even as police insisted that it had been a crime of passion, with no evidence of the occult outside of the testimony of the psychic and the claims of the private investigator. Making it even more confusing is that another psychic, the well-known Sylvia Browne, would side with the police and say that she also thought it was a crime of passion carried out by someone who knew about the victims’ affair, a man she only identifies as “Paul L.P.” So which psychic is right?
It is a case that has remained murky right up to the present, and we are left to just wonder. What happened to this couple out on this lonely road? Who killed them and why? What was the connection, if any, to the game they were playing or the occult? Were the psychics any use at all? It is a case that continues to be debated and discussed, and although this seems to be a crimne of passion there are no suspects, no conclusion, and no clear answers.