Details of Disappearance
Johnson moved to Kittery, Maine from Pennsylvania in 1977 and took a job as a welder for Donnelly Manufacturing in Exeter, New Hampshire. He lived in a cabin on Jewett Court.
On February 3, 1983, Johnson went to his job at Donnelly Manufacturing, then left at the end of his shift as usual, but didn't show up for work the next day or call in sick. It's not clear whether he ever actually told them he was quitting his job or if his employers just assumed this. He also failed to make his customary phone call to his family that week.
On February 4, one of Johnson's neighbors saw a young man with black hair and a mustache, wearing a black leather jacket and dark-colored pants, knock on Johnson's door. The young man was let inside and then left the house on foot a short time later.
Johnson or someone posing as him visited his bank and emptied his account, then bought $146 worth of groceries. The grocery purchase was made at a Stratham, New Hampshire store, rather than at the store he normally shopped for groceries at.
On February 9, he purchased two packs of expensive thermal underwear in Portsmouth. Neither pack was in his clothing size: one was a size small and the other, an extra-large. He also purchased car stereo equipment at a Radio Shack store. He used checks to pay for all this, despite the fact that his bank account had insufficient funds to cover them. This is uncharacteristic of Johnson's behavior, as he was noted for being financially responsible.
The next day, February 10, someone went to Ocean National Bank and withdrew $30 from his checking account and $50 from his account. This left only a few dollars in each account. The bank tellers identified the person making the withdrawals as Johnson.
February 12, someone used one of Johnson's checks to purchase a pair of small bookshelf speakers from Radio Shack, at a total price of $100. The person also made a $30 deposit on a car radio and cassette player; the full cost was $280. The day after that, a check was written for the $250 balance remaining on the car radio and cassette player.
On February 15, Johnson's father in Pennsylvania asked the Kittery police to do a welfare check on him, as he hadn't heard from him and was worried. The police went to his residence at Jewett Court and it was obvious that no one had been there in at least several days.
A storm had hit the area on February 6, three days after Johnson was last seen at work, and there were no tracks in the fresh snow. The door to the cabin was unlocked, the pipes were frozen, and inside there was no sign of Johnson.
Many items were missing from the cabin, including a TV set, an acoustic guitar, a record player and amplifer, all of Johnson's records, all his clothing, and all his valuable welding equipment. The only items left behind were a set of guitar strings Johnson had purchased on February 3, the box for the record player and amplifer, a pair of slightly damaged stereo speakers, and Johnson's contact lenses.
Also on February 15, Johnson's red 1972 Volkswagen with Maine license plates was towed to the Exxon station in the Elwyn Park area of Portsmouth. The mechanic on duty recognized Johnson's photo and stated that Johnson said he needed to go south and wanted "quick repairs" on the car. It's not clear what he meant about going south. Johnson had previously mentioned wanting to visit his sister in Georgia, but no specific plans had been made.
On February 19, Johnson's checkbook was used to buy $66 worth of groceries. Johnson himself reportedly reappeared at the Exxon station on February 21 to retrieve his car. He tried to pay the repair bill by check, but the mechanic refused to accept it and Johnson left the building on foot, leaving the car.
The next day, Johnson or someone claiming to be him called Donnelly Manufacturing and asked to have his last paycheck sent to his address in Kittery. On February 23, the Exxon station got a call from someone claiming to be Johnson. The caller offered to give the car to the business to cover the cost of the repair bill. He said he'd originally purchased the car for $1,200, but in fact it had been a gift from Johnson's father.
Johnson's parents staked out the post office in Kittery, hoping their son would come and collect his mail. His mother was inside the post office taking photos when she saw an unidentified man with long reddish-blond hair and "a clean and neat appearance", about 5'10 tall and dressed in an orange t-shirt, green overalls, and a red baseball cap with a short brim and a white logo.
The unidentified man opened Johnson's post office box and collect his mail. He kept the paycheck Donnelly Manufacturing had sent, but threw out the other mail. Then he noticed he was being observed and photographed, and put his hand up in front of his face. In the resulting photo, the man's face is completely covered. The photo is posted with this case summary.
When Johnson's mother spoke to the man, he stated Johnson was living with him in an apartment in Portsmouth and offered to take her there if she had a car. Johnson's mother called her husband so he could get the car, but when Johnson's father arrived at the post office, the man ran outside and got away from them.
This man has never been identified, and the paycheck he took with him has never been cashed. It was eventually canceled by Donnelly Manufacturing.
On December 26, 1982, about a month and a half prior to Johnson's disappearance, he picked up a hitchhiker who called himself Richard. Richard said he was going to Detroit, Michigan or to Ontario, Canada, which was the opposite direction in which Johnson was headed, but Johnson picked him up anyway and invited him to stay for awhile at his home in Kittery.
Richard stayed for over a week and Johnson gave him food and money. He left on January 7, less than a month prior to Johnson's disappearance, after he arranged for someone he knew from Massachusetts to pick him up during the day while Johnson was at work. He may have taken a copy of Johnson's house key with him.
It's not clear whether Richard had any involvement in Johnson's later disappearance, but police would like to identify and question him.
Since 1983 there has been no activity on Johnson's Social Security number and no indication of his whereabouts. His family believes the man who came to get his mail knows what happened to him. The circumstances of his disappearance are unclear, but Johnson's family said that due to his hypoglycemia he could have died unexpectedly of natural causes.
He is a graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut, where he studied philosophy and history and spent a semester abroad in Italy. His case remains unsolved.