Jack’d date turns fatal in Fort Greene
A weekend getaway with friends turned into David Keegan Riotto Haigh’s worst nightmare that ended with him locked up on Rikers Island, facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars for murder.
Haigh drove from Reading, Pennsylvania, on April 7, 2017 to meet up with his friends in Manhattan. Haigh also made plans in Brooklyn to meet James Johnson, 41, who he met through Jack’d, a dating app for gay and bisexual men.
An evening of drinking and drugs inside Johnson’s fourth-floor apartment in the Ingersoll Houses in Fort Greene turned into an extended weekend that escalated into violence.
On April 9, 2017, Johnson was found dead after suffering 18 stab wounds and 21 lacerations all over his body, including one fatal stab wound to the chest.
“It was this defendant who unequivocally stabbed James Johnson over and over and over again with more than one knife,” said Assistant District Attorney Leila Rosini of Haigh in her opening statements in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.
As Haigh’s friends left the Fort Greene apartment on April 8, Johnson and Haigh used the Jack’d app to invite other men to party with them.
“They spent all that time together, and the defendant felt that Johnson was setting him up,” said Rosini.
During the early morning hours of April 9, the pair’s invited guests, who engaged in sex and drugs with them, left one by one.
Haigh began to grow suspicious of Johnson, who was binging on methamphetamine and demanding more cash from Haigh to purchase more drugs.
Defense attorney Thomas H. Andrykovitz told the jurors during his opening statements on Wednesday that “David did as he was told.”
Unbeknownst to Haigh, the subject of his whirlwind romance was a suspect in a sexual assault against another man a week prior, sources familiar with the case told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Haigh called 911 an hour before the stabbing, but said nothing over the phone. He texted his friend “9-1-1” more than once. “But he never left the apartment.” said Rosini.
When the front door of the apartment was locked by either Johnson or Haigh — preventing either from leaving — a fight ensued.
The prosecutors intend to prove to the jurors that this was an intentional, cold-blooded murder not self defense. The jurors will hear a 90-minute videotaped statement from Haigh the day after the slay.
The defense is arguing for self defense. “Johnson was bigger and stronger and attacked David; David screamed. Johnson bit David’s hand to the bone; David screamed. Johnson began beating David with a frying pan; David screamed,” said Andrykovitz.
The jurors are expected to hear a few 911 calls during the trial, one from a “concerned neighbor” who thought a woman was screaming for help and another where the operator mistook Haigh for a woman in distress.
“David reached for whatever he could as Johnson beat him with a frying pan — not intentionally. He reached in desperation, not premeditation,” said Andrykovitz.
Two feet from the doorway, Haigh got on top of Johnson and forced the knife into his chest.
“This man did what he had to do to survive. We have a legal right to defend ourselves,” said Andrykovitz. “David is here because he survived. David didn’t murder Johnson, James Johnson is dead because he brutally attacked David and wasn’t going to stop.”
After the stabbing, Haigh immediately called 911 and Johnson was pronounced dead by EMS at 6:11 a.m.
Vladimir Voilokiv, an emergency service technician with Brooklyn Hospital who arrived on the scene first, took Haigh to the hospital for injuries to his face and hand.
“He was cooperative, not belligerent. [He] seemed emotionally unstable, may have needed psychiatric care. He was frantic, hysterical and distraught,” said Voilokiv on the witness stand.
Johnson leaves behind five brothers and sisters as well as two teacup dogs, Picco and Paco, said La-Ron D. Gakin, Johnson’s cousin who testified as the prosecution’s first witness.
If convicted, Haigh faces up to 25 years to life in prison for second-degree murder.