Arne Johnson’s trial was the first known court case in the United States in which the defense attempted to prove innocence by relying on the defendant’s claim of demonic possession and denial of personal responsibility for the crime. The case was widely publicized as “The Devil Made Me Do It.” The story was later adapted into a film, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
To the police, the murder of Bono appeared to be a clear cut case, but after his arrest, Arne claimed that he killed his landlord because The Devil forced him to. He had the help of two paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, to back up his claims.
Real Life story of Devil Made me Do it
Arne Johnson stabbed his landlord Alan Bono 22 times with a five-inch pocket knife in the morning of February 16, 1981. Brookfield’s residents were taken aback by this murder because it was the first recorded in the town’s 193-year history. Arne was just another normal adolescent with no criminal record before this day.
“It was not an unusual crime; someone became enraged, and an argument ensued. We couldn’t have a simple uncomplicated murder; instead, the entire world descends on Brookfield “The Post was told by then-Police Chief John Anderson.
Arne called in sick from his job at Wright Tree Service in the morning and joined Debbie at the kennel, where she worked alongside her sister Wanda and Debbie’s cousin Mary. Arne repeatedly plunged a five-inch pocket knife into Alan Bono’s chest on a quiet day in February. Bono died within an hour, and Arne was apprehended two miles away from the crime scene. Months later, he stood in the dock and pleaded not guilty, claiming that the devil forced him to do it.
Attorney Martin Minella claimed Arne was possessed, and he had the evidence to prove it. “The courts have dealt with the existence of God. Now they’re going to have to deal with the existence of the Devil,” he told the New York Times in 1981 a month after the stabbing.
If the devil made me do it statement wasn’t strange enough to the court, the defense team argued that it all started with Arne’s fiancé’s brother, 11-year-old David Glatzel. The defense claimed that David was cured of demonic possession, but the demon jumped into Arne Johnson, and thus he had no control over his body.
Glatzl Family’s testimony
According to the family, their 11-year-old son David was a host to the demon. David claimed to have come across an old man who would taunt him. The family members dismissed David’s story, believing it was his way of avoiding chores. The encounters became more frequent and violent over time.
David would wake up in the middle of the night crying and describing a man with big black eyes, a thin face, jagged teeth with animal features, pointed ears, horns, and hoofs, basically a demon. After witnessing ominous occurrences, the Glatzl family finally decided to seek assistance.
Ed and Lorraine Warren were contacted by Father Dennis, who was the pastor of Saint Joseph Church in Brookfield at the time. Dennis called and told them that he had tried to help David but that it appeared to be a case of possession to him.
According to his family, when David was possessed, he would kick, bite, swear, and say horrible things, and he would be strangled by invisible hands that he tried to pull from his neck, and powerful forces would flop him from head to toe like a rag doll.
Arne stayed with the family at the time to assist David because they had formed a strong bond. However, the problem soon it started happening during the day. David would describe an elderly man with a white beard who wore a flannel shirt and jeans to his family, and as he described the man, suspicious voices would emerge from the attic.
Following an examination of David’s condition, the Warrens came to the conclusion that he was the victim of demonic possession. Following the claims, the psychiatrists who investigated the case claimed that David only had a learning disability.
The Warrens performed a formal exorcism on David, which lasted several days until, according to those present, a demon fled from the child’s body and took up residence within Arne. Several months after the demon took up residence in Arne, he murdered his landlord at a party. Gerald Brittle’s book The Devil in Connecticut details these events.
Ed Warren reported hearing banging and growling sounds coming from their basement during the exorcism, as well as a chair moving on its own. Lorraine claimed she saw a black mist appear next to David while her husband was interviewing him.
Arne investigated a well near their house some time before the murder, where his David claimed to have had his first encounter with the demonic presence wreaking havoc on their lives. Arne later claimed that he saw the demon hiding within the well and that he was possessed by it until after the murder.
Trial of Arne Johnson
Lorraine Warren informed Brookfield police the day after the killing that Arne was possessed at the time of the crime. The trial began on October 28, 1981, in Connecticut’s superior court. Arne’s attorney attempted to enter a not guilty by reason of possession plea, but the judge quickly rejected it.
Martin even planned to subpoena the priests who allegedly attended the exorcisms, urging them to break with tradition and discuss the contentious rites. However, this was not accepted by their peers, and Martin and the Warrens were regularly mocked by their peers, who saw them as mere profiteers from the tragedy.
The judge argued that such a defense would never exist in a court of law due to a lack of evidence, and that allowing related testimony would be “irrelevant and unscientific.” The defense even went so far as to claim that Arne acted in self-defense.
However, the jury was not permitted by law to consider demonic possession as a viable explanation for the killing. The jury deliberated for 15 hours over three days before convicting Arne of first-degree manslaughter on November 24, 1981. He was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison, but only served five of them.
The movie: “The Devil Made Me Do It”
Gerald Brittle, with the assistance of Lorraine Warren, published The Devil in Connecticut, a book about the incident, two years after Arne’s sentencing. The proceeds from the books were divided among the family members.
However, David’s brother was not amused by the book, and he ended up suing Brittle and Warren for it, claiming that it violated his right to privacy. He also stated that it was a “premeditated infliction of emotional distress.” Later, he claimed that the book was a hoax concocted by Warrens, who profited from his brother’s illness.
While David’s father, Carl Glatzel Sr., denies having told the author that his son was possessed.
Arne and his now-wife, Debbie, however, support the Warrens’ account of demonic possession and have stated that the Glatzels in question are suing for monetary gain. Arne Johnson married his fiancée while still in prison, and they were still together in 2015. Arne was released from prison after only five years.
The events subsequently inspired the plot of the 2021 film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.