Sleeping with Death: Who was accused of stabbing Johnia Berry 22 times and what happened to him?

Sleeping With Death
Oxygen's Sleeping With Death premieres on November 6, 2022, at 7 pm ET (Image via Oxygen)

The 2004 stabbing death of Johnia Berry will be the subject of the first episode of Oxygen's upcoming eight-part true-crime series Sleeping With Death, which premieres on November 6, 2022.

Episode 1, titled Left for Dead, will revisit Berry's lengthy murder investigation, which was followed by the arrest of a potential suspect. The episode airs on Sunday at 7 pm ET.

The synopsis reads:

"Johnia Berry is stabbed more than 22 times in her Knoxville, Tenn., bedroom while her male roommate escapes. Investigators can't fathom how this young man evaded Johnia's fate. Will a years-long investigation reveal the true killer?"

A Knoxville man named Taylor Olson, 22, was arrested nearly three years later in 2007. DNA evidence found at the crime scene identified him as a potential suspect and the alleged burglar in the case, who broke into Berry's home and attacked her and the flatmate.

Sadly, in 2008, Olson, who was in custody at the time, was found hanged in his cell before he could be brought to justice. Moreover, authorities revealed that he left letters in the jail cell before killing himself, which raised further questions regarding the homicide.


Accused in Johnia Berry's stabbing case left letters, indicating the involvement of another suspect

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In December 2004, 21-year-old Johnia Berry was fatally stabbed in her home in West Knox County by one or more burglars who entered the apartment she shared with flatmate Jason Aymami and attacked them both. A DNA test reportedly connected the blood discovered at the crime scene to Olson, who had a background in theft, leading to an arrest in 2007.

Olson was scheduled for trial on July 28 of the following year. However, he was discovered hanging at the Knox County Jail in March 2008. He allegedly ripped a bed sheet and used it to hang himself inside his jail cell, leaving behind letters.

Authorities claimed that Olson, who was being confined to a cell alone and being examined every hour, showed no signs of suicidal tendencies.

Reports state that in those letters, Taylor Olson claimed that he did not kill Johnia Berry and identified the person he alleges stabbed Berry to death in 2004. Gregory P. Isaacs, Olson's lawyer, disclosed some of the basic content of the letters, which included sentiments of love for his family and sorrow for the Berrys.

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Olson's defense lawyer Isaacs stated that he named a person who may be liable for the murder of Johnia Berry in those letters and expressed his wish for that particular individual to take accountability for the crime committed. However, Berry's father Michael refused to believe his side of the story.

Michael Berry reportedly said:

"His blood was there, his DNA was there. He killed my daughter in a cowardly way, and he took the coward's way out. If he wasn't really the one who murdered her, why did he kill himself?"

He further added:

"I feel for any parent who has to bury their child, but my daughter didn't get to write any last letters to her family before she was killed."

Another potential suspect was named in Johnia Berry's case but was never charged

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According to reports, another potential suspect, Noah Thomas Cox, 24, was named in the case but was never charged. Moreover, Olson's defense refused to clarify whether Cox is the same individual mentioned in the letters.

But it was revealed that defense attorney Gregory Isaacs was putting together a case based on claims that Cox killed Johnia Berry that night after the two broke into her house.

The theory reportedly emerged from a drug addict's statement who was also a friend of Olson and Cox, named Augustine Joseph Leon. He informed authorities that his friend confessed to stabbing Berry during the botched burglary.

He stated that the two men broke into the victim's apartment thinking the place was unoccupied. That's when Berry armed herself with a knife and wounded Olson. Cox then ran to help his friend and killed the victim in the process while his accomplice, who was bleeding, fled the scene.


Oxygen's Sleeping With Death airs on Sunday, November 6, at 7 pm ET.

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Edited by Prem Deshpande