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Article updated: 3/18/2013 8:23 PM

Neighbor charged in Elgin murder has long rap sheet

By Lenore T. Adkins Harry Hitzeman

The man accused of stabbing an Elgin neighbor to death with the screwdriver police say he used to break into her home has an extensive criminal background spanning two counties, records show.

Paul A. Johnson, 34, a lifelong Elgin resident, was charged with the March 2 murder of Lisa Koziol-Ellis, who lived three doors down from him in a townhouse on the 0-100 block of Garden Crescent Drive, authorities announced Monday. They say he broke into the home to steal a DVD player and other items.

Johnson was arrested Friday evening near his home, Elgin Police Chief Jeffrey Swoboda said, and charged late Sunday with first-degree murder, home invasion and residential burglary.

Johnson, on parole since January 2012 for a 2010 residential burglary in Elgin, has a criminal history in Cook and Kane counties that also includes violence and armed robbery, court records show. Koziol-Ellis, 33, and her husband, Dash Ellis, had moved to the townhouse from Chicago just days before her murder.

Johnson, according to a police report, broke into the home but was confronted by Koziol-Ellis. He then began stabbing her with the screwdriver used in the break-in but switched to a knife he found inside the home, police said.

Johnson then left the home but returned an unspecified time later to "clean up the scene," the report said. Dash Ellis found his wife's body after returning home from work.

Kane County Coroner Rob Russell said Koziol-Ellis was stabbed in the head, in the neck and on the sides of her body, between her waist and armpit. A friend said her autopsy results were released March 4, on what would have been her 34th birthday.

"It's a brutal crime," Russell said.

Johnson, who attended Larkin High School, was unable to post 10 percent of the $5 million bail set Monday by Kane County Judge William Parkhurst. Johnson remained in the county jail. He lowered his head during the majority of his bond hearing.

According to court records, Johnson has had several scrapes with the law. Among them:

In July 2001, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for an armed robbery the prior October at an Elgin hotel on the 400 block of Airport Road. Authorities said he and another man entered the hotel with air guns, bound a female clerk with duct tape and stole $500. Johnson pleaded guilty to armed robbery in exchange for his sentence to be served concurrent to two felony charges he faced in Cook County and for Kane prosecutors dismissing charges that he beat a man in Elgin with a pipe in May 1998.

In addition to the 2010 residential burglary arrest in Elgin, South Elgin police arrested Johnson in May 2010. He was charged with damaging a TV and a window at a home on the 600 block of Spring Street. The charges were eventually dropped, but the victim in the case, Johnson's ex-girlfriend, was granted a two-year order of protection against him. The order included her two children, ages 3 and 7 at the time.

The woman told police Johnson visited her in an attempt to repair their relationship. According to the order of protection, he got angry, she told him to leave and he threw something at her that missed but hit a TV behind her, shattering it. He also picked up a small bench in the living room and threw it into a window, breaking it, the records say.

"Paul has a history of physical abuse toward her," the protection order stated. "He has choked her, thrown objects at her, snuck into her home after she has locked the door and punched the walls."

Johnson was sentenced to four years in prison for the 2010 residential burglary in Elgin and served two years before being paroled in January 2012.

Prosecutors are seeking extended prison time for Johnson, citing the "exceptionally brutal and heinous" nature of Koziol-Ellis' slaying, State's Attorney Joe McMahon said. As a result, he added, Johnson could spend between 20 and 100 years in prison, if found guilty of her murder. The sentence range for murder is typically between 20 and 60 years.

Koziol-Ellis was active in Chicago's performance community, often hosting or emceeing shows. Her artist's name was Foxy Goat Lisa, and she was known for her drawings, jewelry and other artwork.

She and her husband had been married six years. Last week, Dash Ellis announced a $15,000 reward in exchange for information leading to the arrest and conviction of her killer. As of Monday, donors had given more than $18,000.

"To Dash, Lisa's husband, to Lisa's family and friends, I wish to tell you that although our work in the state's attorney's office is just beginning, I promise you that we will do our best to get justice for Lisa and for all of you," McMahon said.

Three of Johnson's relatives attended his hearing. One of them, a woman, cried as she was comforted by another female relative. Police escorted them out of the building without allowing the media to approach.

Johnson's next court date is March 27 at the Kane County Judicial Center.

Swoboda said it's been a long 17 days for all involved, particularly the west-side neighborhood where the murder occurred. He said the community had been on edge ever since, but that police continued to patrol the neighborhood and to share what information they could, without compromising the investigation.

"It was a scared community -- we haven't left that neighborhood since this crime has occurred," Swoboda said. "Making an arrest obviously was the most important part and that, in and of itself has made the community much safer."

Sandra Schmulbach, president of the Garden Quarter Townhome Association, concurred with Swoboda's remarks but declined to comment further.

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