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Corey Johnson found guilty of murdering 13-year-old boy during Palm Beach Gardens sleepover

Johnson stabbed Jovanni Sierra to death, slit his throat on March 12, 2018
Posted at 1:57 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 21:00:32-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Palm Beach County man on Friday was convicted of first-degree murder for fatally stabbing a 13-year-old boy during a 2018 sleepover in Palm Beach Gardens.

Corey Johnson, 21, was also found guilty of two counts of attempted murder.

Johnson stabbed Jovanni Sierra to death at a home in BallenIsles Country Club on March 12, 2018.

Palm Beach Gardens police said Johnson was a guest of Kyle Bancroft, 15, when he stabbed Sierra several times and slit his throat before attacking Bancroft's 13-year-old brother, Dane Bancroft, and his mother, Elaine Simon, who lived at the home.

Dane Bancroft was stabbed 32 times, while Simon was stabbed a dozen times. Both survived the attack.

Jury deliberations started about 9 a.m. Friday and lasted about four hours. During that time, jurors asked to review a couple pieces of evidence again, including video of police questioning Johnson after the attack.

"The facts were clear that he knew right from wrong and just decided to do it anyway," prosecutor Richard Clausi said. "So it's sad for everybody, but the verdict is what it should have been."

RELATED: Bloodstained knife on display during Corey Johnson murder trial

Police said Johnson, who was 17 at the time of the killing, confessed to the crime, citing his Muslim faith as the motive.

During the investigation, Johnson's relatives told police he was fascinated with dictators like Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin and had recently been studying the Quran.

A Jupiter police report revealed that as recently as March 1 of 2018, the FBI had met with one of Johnson's friends as part of an investigation into terrorist threats.

According to an arrest affidavit, Johnson told police that Sierra was idolizing famous people and referencing them as gods, which went against his Muslim faith. Johnson also felt Dane Bancroft "made fun of" his Muslim faith, the affidavit said.

Just before the attack, Johnson was reading the Quran from his phone "to give him courage to carry out his intentions," the affidavit said.

During Johnson's trial, his defense team tried to convince jurors that Johnson was not guilty by reason of insanity.

Johnson will be sentenced on Jan. 4, 2022. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.