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Police Killer, 20, Sentenced Under Plea Bargain

April 02, 1987

Charles Tyberg, whose conviction in the February, 1983, slaying of a San Diego police officer was overturned, pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder under terms of a plea bargain.

Tyberg, 20, adopted son of a deputy sheriff, was immediately sentenced by Orange County Superior Court Judge Myron Brown to a term of 17 years to life in state prison. Deputy Dist. Atty. Gary Rempel, the prosecutor in the case, said Tyberg must serve a minimum of 8 1/2 years, minus the four years he has spent in custody, before he is eligible for parole.

Tyberg was convicted of first-degree murder three years ago in the shooting death of Officer Kirk Johnson. Tyberg shot Johnson while on a joy ride in his father's patrol car. After the trial--held in Orange County on a change of venue because of extensive publicity about the case in San Diego--Tyberg was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison.

But last June the conviction was thrown out by the 4th District Court of Appeal, which found that homicide detectives feigned friendship to trick the youth into confessing. The court ruled the confession inadmissible in Tyberg's second murder trial, which was scheduled to begin April 20.

Rempel said prosecutors sought a plea bargain because their chances of proving first-degree murder were badly damaged by the appellate court's elimination of the confession. He said Tyberg's statement was the "key piece of evidence providing uncontroverted proof of premeditation."

Rempel said prosecutors consulted with Johnson's widow, Patricia Johnson-Geurkink, and top police administrators before agreeing to the plea bargain. The district attorney said all sides generally agreed that "a life sentence without the possibility of an appeal was acceptable given the state of the evidence."

Defense attorney Clancy Haynes said both he and his client were pleased with terms of the agreement because it reduced Tyberg's potential sentence by 10 years.

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