Arrest made in Columbus Gold & Silver Trading Center murder - WRBL

Arrest made in Columbus Gold & Silver Trading Center murder

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

Columbus police have filed charges in the Nov. 2011 slaying of Gold & Silver Trading Center manager Steve Toms.

29-year-old Michael Jerome Johnson has been in the Muscogee County jail since last August on other charges. Now police are tacking on murder, armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

For a year and a half police have been tracking down leads and trying to find the man who shot Steve Toms multiple times and robbed the Gold & Silver Trading Center of cash and jewelry. Now family and friends are breathing sighs of relief.

Gold & Silver owner Bob Upchurch says he never forgot about the day he walked into his store and found Toms' body. "You can't put it out of your mind," he says. "You may not think of it every minute, but still it just never goes away, and that's why you at least need to put somebody behind bars and get some closure to it."

He and other friends of the family were worried that the trail had gone cold. Allen Woodall says, "It was a lot of traffic out in front of Gold & Silver, there were security cameras across the street that was catching what was going on. It was just frustrating that nothing happened."

At the one-year anniversary of the murder police had conducted more than 100 interviews and were still looking for fresh leads. The case gained lots of attention in Columbus, as Toms and Upchurch were well-known for their commercials advertising the "Little White House." As the case progressed, Toms' family and friends raised $25,000 for any information leading to an arrest.

"That was the idea," says Woodall, "if we could get up to $25,000 hopefully we're going to break this case and somebody will come forward and it'll happen, but it hadn't happened. I just thought the other day, it's been over a year, I don't know how long, and nothing has happened yet."

What authorities didn't know was that they already had the man they were looking for behind bars. Toms' daughter and sister both say they're excited to see a break in the case, and so is Upchurch.

Upchurch says, "I hope the person that did this, this type crime, is punished for what he did, and I think we're on the right track."

Johnson is scheduled to appear in Recorders Court Friday morning at 9 a.m. Police aren't releasing any investigative information before then.

Johnson was jailed Aug. 22 for robbing La Mexicana, a Columbus restaurant, and was sentenced to 20 years when he pleaded guilty in May.

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