Charles Kessinger charged with mysterious Cold Case murder

James Johansen (L) and his alleged killer Charles Michael

Jacob Johansen was 53 years old when he was killed. His last days were occupied with a number of motor vehicle deals; a sale that went through and a proposed purchase that he never got to make. Now, more than 15 years later, West Virginia police say they have caught the killer.

A extant page on the West Virginia State Police website offers the following ominous understanding of Johansen’s disappearance:

Mr. Johansen was last seen on 13-06-2007 in Fairlea, WV selling his vehicle to a local private individual. After the sale, the buyer advised Mr. Johansen to go with an unknown female. Mr. Johansen had contacted a person in Ohio to purchase another vehicle and was planning to make the trip. The Ohio individual was contacted by WV State Police and Mr. Johansen never made it to Ohio.

And so the case remained, cold and mysterious, questions asked but unanswered, for some 14 years after the late man was first reported missing by family and friends in June 2007.

A break in the case finally came in September 2021, when the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to possible human skeletal remains found in the Muddy Creek Mountain area.

According to Harrisonburg, the Virginia-based Fox/CBS affiliate WHSV, deputies from the GCSO and members of the WVSP Lewisburg Detachment collected the remains and additional unspecified evidence near where the bones were discovered.

The remains were eventually determined to be the property of Johansen.

Details about the resulting murder investigation are scarce.

Law&Crime asked the West Virginia Police Department for additional information, but they did not immediately respond.

According to a WVSP press release obtained by multiple local media outlets, the new evidence, the previous case files, new leads and old leads alike have been compiled to provide to the Greenbrier County Attorney PatVia with a report recommending fees.

In October, Via presented the case to the Greenbrier County Grand Jury. Charles Michael “Cason” Kessinger38, is now on trial for one count each of first-degree murder and robbery.

In comments to Metro News, a Mountain State radio station, Via discussed the alleged motive for the killings and said Kessinger killed Johansen when he stole his 1995 Dodge Neon.

“The robbery and murder allegations were the result of a unique transaction of events between these two individuals,” the prosecutor said, noting that Kessinger was questioned in the early stages of the then-missing persons investigation.

“I would say he was part of a significant number of people who were provided and willing to provide interviews and information,” Via added.

Late last month, West Virginia state officials traveled to San Antonio, Texas, where the defendant lived and arrested him with the help of the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Originally imprisoned in the Lone Star State, Kessinger was extradited to West Virginia earlier this month. He is currently being held without bail at the Southern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility.

The defendant was arraigned on the charges before the Greenbrier County District Judge last Thursday, November 10, 2022 Robert Richardson. A pre-trial hearing is currently scheduled for December 20, 2022.

“The case has never been pushed aside and of course there have been major breaks in the case over the last 14 months,” Via told Metro News. “The case has never been brushed aside and that is key. We are where we are today because the case was never dropped.”

[image: Johansen via West Virginia State Police; Kessinger via Southern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility]

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