Editor’s note: If you are struggling with domestic violence, or know someone who is, there are resources that can help. In Mendocino County, Project Sanctuary provides free resources and support. They have temporarily suspended some visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but can be reached 24/7 at (707) 463-4357 for the inland county area, and (707) 964-4357 for the coast.
MENDOCINO Co., 4/14/20 — Tavion Johnson, 21 of Willits, was arraigned at the Mendocino County Superior Court in the killing of his wife, Elenah Elston, last week and will appear again at his preliminary hearing today at 9 a.m. Johnson plead not guilty in the death of Elston, and also denied a probation violation. Assistant District Attorney Dale Trigg will be prosecuting the case and asked for a high bail, which was set at $500,000, Johnson’s lawyers are expected to contest this bail, though the D.A.’s office has said they are determined to keep Johnson in custody.
Johnson was initially booked in the early morning hours of March 30, after Elston had already been declared brain dead in an out-of-county hospital. Elston was subsequently taken off life support. Johnson is now facing charges of murder, violating a protective order and probation, and of great bodily injury and corporal injury against his spouse.
Johnson was initially identified as a suspect by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office deputies, who were familiar with the man, after being called to investigate what appeared to be suspicious injuries of Elston’s in a local emergency room, according to the MCSO press release on the incident. Her death has resulted in widespread outrage, in part due to the fact that Johnson has been arrested at least three prior within Mendocino County, in the last six months, on domestic violence related charges. Many community members have written to Mendocino County’s District Attorney David Eyster, asking for maximum charges or to increase penalties for domestic violence violations. Assemblyman Jim Wood also issued a statement on April 3 highlighting the need for awareness of domestic violence, and cited Elston’s death as a tragic example.
Elston is not the first person to have lost their life due to domestic violence in Mendocino County in recent years. In Feb. 2018 Andrew Crowningshield, 27, murdered Autumn Renee Smith, 22, with whom he shared a child; in Jan. 2019 Krissy Orbon, 32, and her son Damian Michael Wilkins, 8, were killed by Damian’s father, Michael Wilkins; Khadijah Britton went missing in Feb. of 2018 in a disappearance that is widely believed to be a likely murder at the hands of an ex-boyfriend; in June 2019 Yareli Diaz is alleged to have killed her infant daughter, Mia Cielo Diaz, by leaving her in a car, unattended for many hours; in July 2018 father and son Calixto and Miguel Ramierz, of Covelo, were shot and killed by Ubaldo Ramierz, their son and brother respectively, on the Ridgewood Grade. This is a partial list of the people killed by intimate partners and family in the past couple years, here in Mendocino County — the list of people gravely injured is of course much longer.