Assault suspect found dead in West Virginia

A Stephens City man wanted in the assault of a woman in Frederick County was found dead in a vehicle authorities believe was stolen from her, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Capt. Donnie Lang, of the Sheriff’s Office, identified the dead man as Michael Johnston Jr., 34, of Stephens City. Lang said arrest warrants for strangulation, malicious wounding, grand larceny of a vehicle, grand larceny of a purse and credit card theft had been issued against Johnston. Members of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office found Johnston dead in the vehicle in the 1500 block of Swinging Bridge Road in Berkeley County, West Virginia, around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Lang said.

Lang said a second suspect, Autumn Miller, 24, also of Stephens City, has been arrested and charged with purse theft and credit card theft.

Lang said the woman who was assaulted was dragged behind a black 2004 Jeep Liberty.

The victim was driving the Jeep initially on Monday afternoon with Johnston in the back and Miller on the passenger’s side of the front seat, Lang said.

The victim had stopped the vehicle when Johnston began to choke and physically assault her, Lang said. Johnston ordered her to leave the vehicle, and she got out and walked around to the passenger side where she tried to take her purse, which was in Miller’s lap, Lang said.

Miller pulled the purse away from the victim, Lang said. Meanwhile, Johnston had gotten into the driver’s side and drove off with the victim still hanging on and being dragged down the pavement, Lang said.

A passerby noticed the woman with her injuries walking alongside the road near the intersection of Upland Road and Old Bethel Church Road, Lang said. The passerby stopped and called 911 around 3 p.m. after the woman said she had been assaulted and dragged behind her vehicle, Lang said.

Lang said the victim was taken to Winchester Medical Center and treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office at 662-6162 or Crime Solvers at 665-8477.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or

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