NEW ORLEANS — The brother of a Decatur-born grandmother who was fatally punched on a French Quarter street last week is trying to understand what motivated her killing, but he expressed relief Wednesday that police had captured a suspect.
"We have no earthly idea why this happened," said Jeffrey Johnson, brother of Margaret "Jane" Johnson Street. "It won't bring my sister back, but it helps knowing who did it and that they have him."
A celebration of life for Johnson Street was held Thursday at Ridout’s Brown-Service Funeral Home in Decatur. She was retired from General Motors. She moved to the New Orleans area around 2014 and spent much of her time caring for her 7-year-old grandson, Johnson said.
New Orleans police say Johnson Street, 61, got into an argument with Jeremiah Mark, 23, in the 100 block of Royal Street on April 18 at about 7:45 p.m. Details about the argument haven't been available, but Mark punched Johnson Street in the face, causing her to fall backward and hit her head on the concrete, police wrote in a sworn statement filed in Criminal District Court.
She was taken to University Medical Center, where staffers diagnosed her with a traumatic brain injury. She died April 20, and her death was classified a homicide after an autopsy two days later, police said.
Police said they didn't immediately know Mark's name, but they released a photo of him to the public and asked for help in identifying him because they wanted to question him. Mark saw the picture in the news media and met with investigators April 22. Police said he told them "he used his hand to push (Street) in the face."
They booked him with manslaughter, which Louisiana law defines as an unintentional yet unjustifiable killing. Magistrate Court Commissioner Jonathan Friedman set Mark's bail at $100,000, and he remained in custody Wednesday evening.
Johnson said his family first feared Johnson Street was attacked during a robbery. But then they realized nothing had been stolen from her.
"It just seems like she was at the wrong place at the wrong time," Johnson said.
Johnson Street was among nine homicide victims reported in New Orleans during an exceptionally violent six-day period beginning April 20. Three more of those killings led to arrests, and investigators have obtained warrants to book suspects in two of the other cases.
If convicted of manslaughter, Mark could be sentenced to as long as 40 years in prison. The crime carries no mandatory minimum sentence.
An attorney for Mark didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment Thursday.