Rockingham man now facing death penalty in 15-year-old’s murder

ROCKINGHAM, N.C. — Prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty in the tragic death of a 15-year-old boy in Richmond County.

Joseph Carroll is accused of killing his girlfriend’s son, Casey Johnson, in January. Police say Carroll beat Johnson to death.

Johnson’s mother, Michelle Johnson, is also charged with his murder.

Carroll was in court Monday as his charges were upgraded to capital murder.

Prosecutors told the judge they’ve discovered aggravated circumstances to upgrade the charges to a death penalty case. In court, Carroll’s attorney acknowledged the state has the grounds to make this a capital case.

In court documents, doctors and the medical examiner said Casey had a head injury so severe it was as if he had been in a car crash.

The documents show investigators found evidence of ongoing physical abuse in the home.

His death sparked outrage in the community, with people placing signs saying “stop abuse” in the yard of the couple’s home.

“I am very grateful to the Rockingham DA’s office and the police department for all their professionalism and hard work during this trying time. Thank you and God bless,” Casey’s father, Eric Johnson, said in a statement.

Michelle Johnson remains in jail without bond.

She was not in court Monday despite being on the docket, and court records show she has not entered a plea yet.

Attorneys couldn’t comment on whether her charges will also be upgraded.

Channel 9 asked Carroll’s attorney about a plea and he said, “no comment.” Carroll is expected in court later this summer as the process of a death penalty case begins.