Man pleads guilty to burning car tied to Uptown murder

Derrick Lamon Johnson, 34, pleaded guilty Nov. 9 to burning a car police had sought in connection with the March murder of graduate student Michael Zebuhr in Uptown, according to a news release from the Hennepin County Attorney's office.

Zebuhr was a 25-year-old graduate student who had traveled from South Carolina to visit family. After leaving an Uptown restaurant around 10 p.m. March 18, 2006, he was walking with his mother and two other adults near 31st Street and Girard Avenue South when two young males approached them. One demanded and grabbed Zebuhr's mother's purse, the other shot Zebuhr in the head with a handgun.

Johnson admitted in court that Billy Ray Johnson (no relation) and Donte Jacobs, both 17 at the time, had told him about the murder. He said he knew police were looking for the white 1994 Ford Taurus the juveniles had been driving, and he burned it to help Jacobs.

Johnson pleaded guilty to the felony charge of accomplice after the fact and is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 8 in front of Hennepin County District Judge Kathryn Quaintance. His sentence is expected to be seven years in prison.

Billy Ray Johnson and Jacobs face first-degree murder charges and a minimum sentence of life in prison if convicted. Billy Ray Johnson is alleged to be the shooter and Jacobs is alleged to have been his companion who participated in the robbery and drove the car. Billy Ray Johnson is scheduled for trial Feb. 27, and Jacobs is scheduled for April 16.