Man Found Guilty Of Murder And Arson For Killing And Burning Mother Of His Child


News from the Office of District Attorney George Gascón

AUGUST 26, 2015

CONTACT:                   Alex Bastian (415) 553-1931

                                      Maxwell Szabo  (415) 553-9089




SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, Almon Johnson, age 33 of Sacramento, was found guilty of first degree murder and arson for the January 24, 2011 murder of Vanessa Herrera.  Ms. Herrera was a 23 year old pre-school teacher with a 7 month-old child whose father is the defendant.


“This is an incredibly tragic death that reminds us that domestic violence is a cycle,” said District Attorney George Gascón.  “I cannot stress enough the importance of early intervention.  It is absolutely essential to protecting these vulnerable victims.”


In the early morning hours of January 24, 2011, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) responded to a call of a vehicle on fire at Rose and Webster Streets.  Upon extinguishing the fire, the police discovered the body of Vanessa Herrera in the right front passenger seat.  Shortly thereafter, SFPD was informed by the Sacramento Police Department that Ms. Herrera was reported missing after she had failed to come home the night before.  Police soon identified a witness to the crime that indicated Johnson set fire to Ms. Herrera’s automobile.  At trial the witness testified to seeing Johnson pull the car into Rose Alley, take a gasoline can from the trunk of the car, place the can in the driver’s seat and light a match which engulfed the vehicle in flames.  Johnson was arrested later that evening on January 24


Testimony provided by the Medical Examiner indicated that the manner of death was a homicide caused by strangulation.  According to court records, after he choked her to death Johnson proceeded to drive around with Ms. Herrera’s body in the car, first driving to his mother’s house, then to his cousin’s house where he retrieved a gas can and a yellow blanket with which he covered her body.  He then went to a gas station where he purchased gasoline to burn the body.  Johnson then proceeded to drive to San Francisco, park the car, pour gasoline all over the interior, and set fire to the vehicle with Ms. Herrera’s dead body inside. 


Ms. Herrera had been the victim of numerous prior incidents of domestic physical abuse inflicted by Johnson, including an August, 2010 incident in which Johnson was arrested and jailed on a parole violation for physically abusing Ms. Herrera and their son.  While in jail, the Defendant wrote Ms. Herrera several letters in which he admitted to abusing her.   


“This prosecution could not have been possible without the extensive cooperation between the San Francisco and Sacramento Police Departments,” said Eric Fleming, Chief and Managing Attorney of the SFDA’s Homicide Unit.  “Their partnership yielded key pieces of evidence which proved to be instrumental in this case.”


Johnson will be sentenced on Monday September 21st at 9:30 am in Department 28.  This successful prosecution is a result of the dedication and thorough investigation by SFPD Inspectors Daniel Dedet and Bob Velarde.  Special thanks also go to Victim Advocates Jean Hassett and Lili Gamero.  Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming prosecuted the case.