Ronald “Ronnie” Johnson’s Murder: How Did Jason Gailey Die?

If there’s one thing absolutely nobody can deny, it’s that every death is heartbreaking in its own sense, but the innate pain of it grows multifold when the manner is unnatural — when it’s murder. Unfortunately, as carefully chronicled in AMC+’s ‘True Crime Story: Citizen Detective: Deb and Judy,’ that’s precisely the case of Florida native Ronald Jimmie Johnson’s summer 2005 demise. So now, if you simply wish to learn more about it — with a specific focus on the events to have transpired, its ensuing investigations, plus the overall aftermath — we’ve got the details for you.

How Did Ronald Johnson Die?

At the age of 34, Ronald (or Ronnie) was actually turning a new leaf following some personal issues with drug abuse when the opportunity for a better future was snatched right away from him. The truth is this father of one had moved into his mother’s Orlando, Florida, home to start afresh, but his one decision to step out in the rain on June 27, 2005, just to buy a pack of cigarettes changed everything. After all, his mother, Judy, heard of sirens down on Raeford Road in the Conway area within 15 minutes, had a gut feeling something was wrong, and reached the location, only to find her son being rushed to the hospital.

It was initially assumed Ronnie had fallen off his bike and hit his head on the curb – a narrative nearly every witness corroborated – yet Judy didn’t believe it for a second as his bike was nowhere to be found. Then came the doctor’s reports that he had head trauma in two different spots, due to which even surgery didn’t help his brain function in the manner it should; he was basically vegetative. Therefore, on July 6, 2005, she made the decision to take him off life support while surrounded by family – yet a medical examiner still ruled his death accidental, that is, until Judys’s insistence led to a second autopsy, and it was concluded the two injuries from which he died made it a possible homicide.

Who Killed Ronald Johnson?

Owing to the initial reports as well as the autopsy ruling Ronald’s death as accidental, the local Orange County Sheriff’s office admittedly did little to no investigations into the matter at first. However, neither his mother nor his elder sister Deborah were ones to back down, so they took matters into their own hands to uncover the whole truth – they needed some justice for Ronnie to move on. So while Judy began talking to every possible witness on Raeford Road, bluffing that her son was actually recovering, her eldest dove deep into the internet to look for any clue they could have missed.

Then, suddenly, Ronnie’s bike showed up just outside Judy’s home in the middle of the night without a single scratch on it, essentially confirming her suspicions that her son hadn’t fallen. Then came a man who introduced himself as “Jay” – he knocked on her door, asked to come in to talk about Ronnie, and claimed he’d actually slapped him on a fateful evening before showing off the fact he had a gun permit as if trying to intimidate her. Nevertheless, Judy rushed to her local police station with this information, only for it to again lead nowhere because officials just weren’t ready to dedicate resources to an “accidental” death of a drug addict.

Image Credit: WFTV/ABC News

Hence continued Judy and Deb’s investigations, through which the latter soon found the strange man was actually named Jason Brian Gaily, and he lived right in the house outside of which Ronnie was found. So, determined, the former continued asking around until she learned from a mailman, who’d heard it from one of Jason’s fellow residents that her son’s demise was actually murder, and they’d made up the cycle story in fear of Jason. Apparently, the 34-year-old had stopped outside this alleged drug house when he’d come across Jason brandishing his gun in front of an elderly man over a money dispute and intervened.

Robbie had said something along the lines of “take on someone your own size,” just for Jason to hit him over the head with the butt of his weapon – that was the former’s first traumatic injury. The second fatal one came from him falling to the ground and hitting his head right on the concrete pavement, resulting in a bit of blood. So, the latter had taken him inside, cleaned him up a little, and threatened everyone not to utter a single word or call the police because it had already started looking bad. Nevertheless, one of them stepped out, grabbed Ronnie’s bike, and made his way to the nearest payphone to dial 911 – hence the missing bicycle.

The truth is, when first responders initially arrived at the scene, Ronnie was still in Jason’s home, and they were the ones to take him outside, which is when the accident story gained traction. Judy genuinely believes that if any officer had questioned these witnesses that evening itself, the truth would’ve immediately come to light, but this was not the case. Though arguably the worst part is that despite the manner of death having been changed to possible homicide, no other officer heard her pleas in the ensuing years either, that is, until the original leading officer met her by chance in the restaurant she worked at and heard her story.

Image Credit: WFTV/ABC News

Judy had no idea she was speaking to the same official seven years after the fact; she just needed her son’s story to be heard, and it led the latter to realize he’d dropped the ball in 2005. He was moved by not just her compassion but also the fact she had incredibly damning evidence, so he apologized for his mistake and immediately contacted his friends at the cold case unit. In fact, he handpicked two of the best detectives to work this case and had them get in touch with Judy, which led them straight to several witnesses who didn’t even hesitate to tell the real version and incriminated Jason. Thus came the latter’s arrest in September 2013.

How Did Jason Brian Gailey Die?

Jason was charged with three counts related to second-degree murder, but the prosecutor’s office soon decided not to pursue the case in court since they weren’t sure how reliable the jury would consider these witnesses with shady pasts eight years after the fact. Jason was hence released from county jail in late 2014, only to suddenly end up passing away around a week later from an accidental drug overdose – it was December 7, 2014, and he was 34 at the time.

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