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Police: Prosecutor Kills Self After Infamous Case

October 7, 1990 GMT

MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) _ A county prosecutor involved in a murder investigation that apparently led to a witness’ death has killed himself, police said.

Collier Vale, 39, was found dead in his apartment Friday from a self- inflicted gunshot wound, a police report said.

Sgt. Fred Ragghianti said the case remained under investigation. A preliminary coroner’s report indicated no sign of foul play and an autopsy was to be performed.

Vale, a Monterey County prosecutor for 10 years who was recently promoted to assistant district attorney, was the focus of nationwide media attention stemming from a mix-up that exposed a murder witness to retaliation.

Sonjii Johnson, 23, of Seaside, was shot to death in the driveway of her parents’ home in August 1989. Bradley Hardison, 25, is accused of slaying Ms. Johnson so she could not testify against him in another case.

Vale and a police officer had earlier mistakenly telephoned a woman named Sonya Johnson, who spread the word that Sonjii Johnson must be helping police.

The district attorney’s office has maintained that the case was not mishandled. The nationally syndicated television program ″A Current Affair″ recently broadcast a segment on the phone call and Ms. Johnson’s subsequent death.

Vale ″was affected deeply by having his name connected″ with the case, said Superior Court Judge John Phillips.

″I guess we didn’t know how strongly he was affected,″ he said.

Vale joined the county prosecutor’s office in 1979 and ″developed into one of the finest, most dedicated prosecutors any county could ever have,″ said Phillips, who in his former post as assistant district attorney hired Vale.