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Texas Man Arrested in Cold Case Murder of West Virginia Man Who Went Missing While Trying to Buy a New Car in 2007


James Johansen (L) and his alleged killer Charles Michael “Cason” Kessinger (R)

James Johansen was 53 years old when he was killed. His final days were concerned with a series of motor vehicle transactions; one sale that went through and a planned purchase he never got to make. Now, more than 15 years later, police in West Virginia say they’ve caught the killer.

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

Mr. Johansen was last seen in Fairlea, WV on 6/13/2007 as he was selling his vehicle to a local individual. The purchaser advised after the sale Mr. Johansen left with an unknown female subject. Mr. Johansen had been in contact with an individual in Ohio to purchase another vehicle and was making plans to take the trip. The individual from Ohio was contacted by the WV State Police and Mr. Johansen never made it to Ohio.

And that’s how the case remained, cold and mysterious, questions asked but unanswered, for some 14 years after the deceased 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, Virginia-based Fox/CBS affiliate WHSV, deputies with 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 belong to Johansen.

Details about the resulting homicide investigation are scarce.

Law&Crime reached out to the West Virginia police for additional information, but they did not immediately respond.

According to a press release from the WVSP obtained by multiple local media outlets, the new evidence, the previous case file, new leads, and old leads alike were marshaled to provide Greenbrier County Prosecutor Pat Via with a report recommending charges.

In October, Via presented the case to the Greenbrier County Grand Jury. Charles Michael “Cason” Kessinger, 38, now stands accused of one count each of murder and robbery in the first degree.

In comments to the Metro News, a Mountain State radio network, Via discussed the alleged motive for the killings, saying that Kessinger killed Johansen while stealing his 1995 Dodge Neon.

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

“I would say that he was part of a substantial number of people that were subjected to and agreed to provide interviews and information,” Via added.

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

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

The defendant was arraigned on the charges this past Thursday, Nov. 10. 2022, before Greenbrier County Circuit Judge Robert Richardson. A pretrial hearing is currently slated for Dec. 20, 2022.

“The case was never cast aside and of course in the last 14 months or so, major breaks in the case,” Via told the Metro News. “The case was never cast aside, and that’s the key. We are where we are today because the case was never cast aside.”

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

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