Convicted killer pleads guilty in prison stabbing

Daniel E. Johnson used a makeshift weapon to stab another inmate in September.

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WALLA WALLA -- A Washington State Penitentiary inmate serving four decades for a double murder in Whatcom County faces about three more years for stabbing a fellow inmate at the Walla Walla prison in September.

Daniel E. Johnson, 30, pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in Walla Walla County Superior Court to the charge of third-degree assault.

In exchange, the prosecution is recommending the low end of the 33- to 43-month standard range for the crime when Johnson is sentenced later.

The charge also was reduced from second-degree assault.

Officials said Johnson -- whose early release date was 2047 -- used a makeshift weapon to stab inmate Virgil P. Morgan, 28, several times in the day room of a West Complex unit at the penitentiary about 8 p.m. on Sept. 26.

The assault took place after Morgan walked up to Johnson, told him something and then walked away, according to a police report filed in court.

"Johnson, who was on the phone, hangs the phone up and immediately starts hitting Morgan on the back multiple times with quick blows," the report says. The attack reportedly lasted 15-20 seconds before correctional officers could stop it.

Morgan was hospitalized at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Johnson was placed in segregation.

Penitentiary staff members recovered the suspected weapon, a sharpened steel rod wrapped with a cloth handle.

Johnson pleaded guilty in Whatcom County in late 2010 to two counts of second-degree murder for the beating deaths of his girlfriend and her infant son inside their Ferndale, Wash., apartment the previous year, the Bellingham Herald reported at the time.

He was sentenced to a little more than 41 years, the maximum allowed under state law.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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