AP NEWS

Suspect charged with murder in woman’s death

December 20, 2018

Laura E. Larkin was a “very trusting person,” “vivacious” and “cared for everybody,” her father, Kenneth Johnson, said recently.

A friend found Larkin’s lifeless body at the top of the stairs at her home at 2429 Cass St. the afternoon of Nov. 26, a probable cause affidavit made public Wednesday said.

Cordell D. Patterson Jr., the 22-year-old man wanted for questioning in her death, is now charged with murder and robbery. He is scheduled to appear in court today.

A forensic pathologist said Larkin was strangled, court records said. The Allen County coroner has not ruled her death a homicide.

A witness said in court documents that on Nov. 25, he and Patterson walked to The Pantry bar on Wells Street where they met two girls, one of them Larkin.

Patterson and Larkin, 33, were “talking, kissing and hanging on each other while in the bar,” according to court documents, and can be seen on video surveillance inside the bar.

Patterson told his friend he intended to go back to Larkin’s home and have sex with her and the two left the bar, court records said.

The same witness said he saw Patterson the next day and Patterson “was acting weird.” Patterson told his friend that after “he did her,” he drove Larkin’s Mercedes Benz to the south side and left it somewhere.

Patterson told the friend he was trying to rob her and she fought back. He put a rope around her neck and strangled her. She fell down the stairs and then he picked her up and laid her in a bed, court records said.

He then took her car and used one of her credit cards at an unidentified gas station and got $20, court documents said.

He visited a female friend, throwing Larkin’s car keys and her phone, although court documents don’t indicate where he threw them. Patterson said he left the car by the “retirement homes in front of Lillie Street,” near the female friend’s home.

A second female witness said Patterson visited her home Nov. 26. While he was there, the woman read a news article about the death of a woman on Cass Street. Patterson started “rocking and acting strange.” He got up and called his mother in Mississippi. He reportedly told her he wanted to visit because “I did something bad and I hurt someone,” court records said.

The male witness told police that Patterson wasn’t sure whether he killed Larkin or “just knocked her out.”

The 2004 Mercedes Benz was found, and Patterson was identified from a photo array by three witnesses, court records said.

Patterson was taken into custody the weekend of Dec. 8 at the Washington County Jail in Greenville, Mississippi.

As Kenneth Johnson and his wife, Karen Johnson, cleared out the white two-story home Larkin, the mother of twin 9-year-old daughters, had called home for several years on Cass Street, he said the shock was too new for them to adjust to their loss.

His daughter was a writer who used those skills in technology at JH Specialty of Fort Wayne. Larkin was a 2003 graduate of Homestead High School and majored in creative writing at Taylor University, where she earned her degree.

“She was a writer who turned to tech,” Kenneth Johnson said.

A friend said hundreds of people came to her funeral service at The Chapel on Dec. 1.

Kenneth Johnson, a retired music teacher at IPFW, said The Chapel was helping them get through this difficult period.

“When the devil means something for bad, God can make it good,” Johnson said.

It was Larkin’s ex-husband who called the Johnsons to tell them about their daughter’s death. The ex-husband and father to Larkin’s twin daughters “knew who she was with,” that night, Kenneth Johnson said.

Neighbor Vicki Kitzmiller described Larkin as “always polite.” She took her daughters on walks all the time and they were “always skipping back” home.

“We were glad to have them as our neighbors,” Kitzmiller said.

Kenneth Johnson remembered something said at his daughter’s funeral that best describes the way he saw her.

“Some people are candles,” the friend said, “but Laura was the aurora borealis.”

jduffy@jg.net