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Ex-convict charged with stabbing Elgin artist to death during burglary

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Updated: April 20, 2013 6:14AM

ELGIN — Bail was set at $5 million Monday for a two-time ex-convict who has spent much of his adult life in prison and now has been charged in the March 2 stabbing murder of artist Lisa Koziol-Ellis in her west-side home.

Paul A. Johnson, 34, lived on the opposite end of the same four-unit townhome block on Garden Crescent Court as the victim and her husband, Dash Ellis.

Police said Monday that Johnson has been charged with four counts of Class M first-degree murder, one count of Class X home invasion, and one count of Class 1 residential burglary. Johnson was being held in the Kane County jail in lieu of bail. If convicted, he could face 20 to 100 years in prison on the charges.

According to a police felony synopsis, a witness told detectives on Friday that he’d had several conversations with Johnson during which he admitted to using a screw driver to break into the victim’s home at 1 Garden Crescent Court, and intended to steal a “DVD player or something like that.”

That report went on to say Johnson was confronted in the home by Koziol-Ellis, 33, during the break-in, and he used the screwdriver to stab her, “then got a knife from inside the residence to continue to stab her until she was dead.”

Johnson is accused of leaving the residence, then later returning in an attempt to “clean up the scene.”

Dash Ellis found her body early the morning of March 2 inside their home when he returned form work.

An Elgin police spokesman called the crime scene “brutal.”

Johnson had been living in the nearby Garden Crescent townhome for a year, neighbors said, since he was released from his last stint in prison on Jan. 20, 2012.

Neighbors said the townhome was owned by his mother, Barbara Fisher, until she died on Jan. 25. Johnson continued to live in the unit with his stepfather and other relatives, neighbors said.

He was arrested at the home Friday evening by officers from Elgin’s Tactical Response Unit.

Robbery conviction

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Johnson was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2000 — when he was just 21 years old — on a Class X armed robbery charge in Cook County.

He was paroled and later arrested in Elgin on a Class 1 felony count of residential burglary in June 2010 and was sentenced to four years in prison. He was paroled Jan. 20, 2012.

One neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said he was warned by other residents of Johnson’s past when he was released from prison and returned to live on the first block of Garden Crescent Court.

Koziol-Ellis and Dash Ellis had moved to Elgin from Chicago just three days before her murder. Moving boxes could still be seen piled in the home’s front windows at the time of the murder, according to neighbors.

She was an avant garde artist and jewelry maker. Going by the nickname “Foxy Goat” and covered with tattoos, Koziol-Ellis and her husband had sold arts and crafts at Elgin’s Monster Mash Up festival last summer. She reportedly was well-known in the Chicago arts and entertainment community, sometimes emceeing shows and parties.

Friends of the family set up a website,,, after the killing to solicit money for a reward and to gather tips. At least $15,000 had been pledged, according to the family.

Had been laid off

Dave Kitz, of unincorporated Hanover Township near Elgin, said he worked with Johnson for the past year. He said Johnson was a truck driver and laborer who had been laid off recently due to a lack of work but had stopped in just last week to pick up a check. He declined to name the company.

As it turned out, Kitz’s wife was a friendly acquaintance with Koziol-Ellis, and the couple had been talking about the crime last week at their kitchen table, Kitz said.

“I worked with him for awhile, and we knew he had trouble with the law on occasion,” Kitz said. “He told us he was trying to get his life straightened out, that he wanted to buy a house out west and get away from bad influences in Elgin.”

When he heard Monday that Johnson had been arrested and charged, Kitz said that “there was an empty feeling in my chest. I knew Paul, I didn’t really know Lisa, but my wife ... and our friends knew Lisa. It was like two worlds colliding head-on. How, why, what the hell was he thinking, if he truly did do it?”

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