Doctors Hospital shooting suspect pleads 'Not guilty.'

Mar. 31, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Several detectives and witnesses testified Monday against 63-year-old Charles Johnston, the suspect behind Thursday's deadly shootings at Doctors Hospital.

Johnston pleaded not guilty to murder and aggravated assault charges, but police say he earlier admitted to the crimes.

As extra deputies were standing guard outside Recorder's Court, Columbus Police detectives and witnesses were inside testifying about the shootings at Doctors Hospital.

One witness, Sherry Wilkerson, says she came face to face with the alleged gunman, Charles Johnston. "And he slung up his right arm, pointing the gun at me. Then he put his left arm, with the second gun. And I was between him and the door and I immediately pushed my aunt out of the way, and that when I realized the security guard coming up behind me," said Wilkerson.

Wilkerson says she stopped the guard, before he got to Johnston, for fear of his life.

She says she has no idea why her life was spared. "And I don't know why except maybe I'm female, and he was worried about his mother, and I got out of his way," said Wilkerson.

At the hearing, several witnesses testified to seeing Johnston shoot Pete Wright, Les Harris, and James Baker.

Detectives say Johnston admitted to the shootings, once he was in custody.

Investigators say Johnston told them he was tired of thinking about his mother's death, and he wanted to confront the nurse, who he believed was responsible.

Wilkerson says she believes Johnston knew what he was doing that day. "He looked to me like he was telling me to get the heck out of the way. I honestly felt like he knew, he was leaving, he had a plan," she said.

Charles Johnston's case was bound over to Superior Court. He will stay in jail until his trial.

District Attorney Gray Conger says he expects to take the case to the grand jury for an indictment in the next few months.

Conger says he believes Johnson is eligible for the death penalty, but he will decide his the appropriate punishment at a later date.