Chapter 1: Boxes

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(Beth Morris for WBUR & ZSP)
(Beth Morris for WBUR & ZSP)

Reporter Amory Sivertson has reopened a box that some members of the Correia family were hoping would stay shut forever.

Amory first met the youngest Correia, Shane, in 2017 while interviewing him about his experience with homelessness for WBUR’s Endless Thread. But there is another dark chapter of Shane's life: his older sister being accused of murdering her mother-in-law in 2002, when he was 13 years old.

Now Shane wants to know, did his sister commit this brutal crime?

If you have questions about the case, the real people at the center of this story, or anything else about this series, we want to hear them. Email with a voice message or written message.

Siblings Sophia and Shane Correia pose together circa 1991 (left) and in 2014 (right). (Photos courtesy of Sophia Johnson).
Siblings Sophia and Shane Correia pose together circa 1991 (left) and in 2014 (right). (Photos courtesy of Sophia Johnson).
Sophia Johnson, Shane's older sister, was accused of murdering her mother-in-law, Marlyne Johnson, in Clark County, Washington. (The Columbian, Sept. 10, 2002)
Sophia Johnson, Shane's older sister, was accused of murdering her mother-in-law, Marlyne Johnson, in Clark County, Washington. (The Columbian, Sept. 10, 2002)
Sophia Johnson appears in Clark County Superior Court on a first-degree murder charge in 2002 (left). (Photo courtesy of Detective Rick Buckner's scrap book via The Columbian). Sophia Johnson poses during a video recording in 2021 (right).
Sophia Johnson appears in Clark County Superior Court on a first-degree murder charge in 2002 (left). (Photo courtesy of Detective Rick Buckner's scrap book via The Columbian). Sophia Johnson poses during a video recording in 2021 (right).
Reporter Amory Sivertson received a box of VHS tapes in 2021, the video footage of Sophia's 2003 murder trial. (Courtesy of Amory Sivertson)
Reporter Amory Sivertson received a box of VHS tapes in 2021, the video footage of Sophia's 2003 murder trial. (Courtesy of Amory Sivertson)

Read the transcript

Chapter 1: Boxes

Heads up: This show has descriptions of violence and strong language.

Sean Correia: Shane, you have no idea how much I'm trying to protect you, little brother. You don't know it yet, but you're being misled. 

George Correia: Mr. Shane, good morning. How are you doing? Listen to me carefully. You're not ready for what will come down if you don't stop your nonsense and keep away. 

Sean Correia: If you guys attempt to sabotage or to trouble me in any which way or to try to slow down my life, I'm gonna fight you guys. 

George Correia: You don't know what you're playing with. Okay?  

Sean Correia: I wanted nothing to do with it in the beginning and up to now I still want nothing to do with it.

George Correia: Stop talking shit about me and don't lie on me.

Sean Correia: But I'm not going to let anybody lie on me. Okay? 

George Correia: Okay? You are worse than Judas. You are wicked  

Sean Correia: All I'm doing is I'm giving you fair fucking warning. If you come at me, I'm going to destroy you, dude. 

You're hearing... an implosion of sorts. A family on the brink of a civil war. Or maybe not so civil. This is the voicemail box of a guy named Shane. The two people leaving him messages? His older brother...

Sean Correia: Keep me out of it.

And his dad.

George Correia: Watch your mouth.

But Shane... isn't receiving the worst of it... ESPECIALLY from his father. Shane's SISTER is.

George Correia: You are the disease of this fuckin’ family. You're devious. You're worthless. 

That's from HER voicemail collection. Here's another one.

George Correia: How you so fucking illiterate, ignorant and stupid? Give that to the reporter too. You lie!

Give that to the reporter too, the dad says.

Hey. Hi. Hello. I'm the reporter. And I'm the reason for these intimidating voice messages. Part of it, anyway. They started after I called that brother and father days earlier.

George Correia: Speaking. 

Amory Sivertson: My name is Amory Sivertson. I work for WBUR. It's a national public radio station.

George Correia: Okay… 

I... have reopened a box, let's just say... that SOME members of this family were hoping would stay shut forever, while others... are the reason it showed up on my doorstep 3 years ago.

Inside... are the details of something that ripped this family apart.

A he-said-she-said between two siblings that left one of them a continent away. And the other... on the run.

George Correia: Sister fighting against brother, trying to lie, to set up your own brother, what kind of feelings you have, lady?

And despite the fact that this event happened more than 20 years ago, it's never been resolved.

I'm talking about…

Amory Sivertson: Oh wow. 

… a murder.

I’m Amory Sivertson. From WBUR and ZSP Media, this is Beyond All Repair.

Chapter one: Boxes

Let’s start with the younger brother receiving voicemail threats from his family. Shane Correia. He’s the reason I’m here…

Amory Sivertson: Hi, Shane. I'm Amory. 

Shane Correia: So nice to meet you Amory. Welcome. 

Amory Sivertson: Thank you.

I first met Shane back in 2017. I’d gone to his New York City apartment to interview him for another podcast I make called Endless Thread. It was for an episode about his experience with homelessness. Shane spent a period of time in his teens sleeping on the subway. No where else to go.

Shane Correia: I was angry and pissed and sad. I only had until morning when, when school started for like some normalcy.

Back then, I didn’t know much about the murder that affected Shane’s life.  But the way I see it now, Shane doesn’t end up sleeping on the subway WITHOUT that dark chapter.

Shane was born in the Bronx. The youngest of four siblings — three boys and a girl with parents who were never not fighting. Name-calling, violence, an ugly divorce… it was a BAD scene. So by his preteen years, Shane and his mom and sister had moved across the country to Washington state. They were all devout Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Shane Correia: First Corinthians 1533. Do not be misled. Bad association spoils useful habits. Still know my verse. Couldn't shake that part. 

Shane is not a Jehovah’s Witness anymore. In large part because of something he was realizing about himself around this time.

Shane Correia: I remember the night that I, I came out to my mom. She was in her room, and I like roll in the chair from my room and like put it in the doorway and I’m like, so mom, I, I have something that I want to tell you, and I'm like trying to couch it as much as possible. And I tell her I'm attracted to men. And she looked at me and she, she said, why is it my children become my worst fears?

Shane’s mom mostly stopped talking to him. She’d leave food outside his bedroom door, as if he were in solitary or something. And then, right around this same time… came THIS…

Shane Correia: Arrests Made in Woman’s Killing. Daughter-in-law Accused in Woman’s Killing.

The “daughter-in-law” accused… is Shane’s sister.

Shane Correia: Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Murdering Her Mother-in-Law. Slaying Suspect Has Bail Tripled. Woman’s Murder Charge Upgraded.

This murder was a big deal in a small, Washington town. And word started spreading, from newspaper headlines to gossiping teenagers at Shane’s school.

Shane Correia: I remember like going into the lunchroom and like this group of kids is like coming toward me. And like the kid that I don't like is like, so is it true that your sister killed someone? Honestly, after that I just kind of stopped going to school. I had always been a really good student up to that point, and then I just kind of shut down.

Going to school felt impossible, being at home with a mom who would barely talk to him felt impossible. So Shane flew back across the country by HIMSELF to the only other place he knew… New York

Shane Correia: So I slept on the train. Um,  Went to school, went to work, still gotta earn that paycheck hourly.  

Shane finished high school like this — unhoused. He worked part-time jobs to get by.

Shane Correia: And like going to work, um, in a rumpled suit because you have no place to put it. Like that was when I actually started to feel homeless.

Shane eventually pieced together enough of an income to rent a room in an apartment. He put himself through college. Then law school. By the time I spoke to Shane for Endless Thread, he was working in the Bronx District Attorney’s office.

The criminal justice system, to Shane, is something that’s brought ORDER to a chaotic life. It’s dealt with things in a way HE hasn’t been able to

Including his sister being accused of murdering her mother-in-law. Even when asked point-blank back in 2017: do you think she did it?

Shane Correia: Uh… I don’t know. Everyone's got a different story and, and this is where I just kind of surrender to the justice system.

That’s where we’d left things back then, as far as the murder was concerned. But the experience of hearing his larger story told by an outsider was pretty cathartic, Shane told me. He wrote to me after that episode came out, saying, “I feel a bit more unleashed from some stuff I didn't fully know was holding me back.”

And that was it. I THOUGHT. Time passed. Shane changed legal jobs. Adopted a dog.

Shane Correia: Tango, up! Good boy.

And then, about three years later, in the spring of 2021, I got an email from Shane out-of-the-blue. There was someone else looking to be “unleashed” from something holding HER back.

Shane Correia: Look, I don't really know her story.

SOMETHING that’s been boxed up, and — for Shane, at least — untouched for more than 20 years.

Shane Correia: So I think that my sister is capable of committing such a brutal crime?

Shane was reaching out to say that that question might finally get answered. Because the person who could settle it for him, once and for all? She wanted to talk.

And she wanted to talk… to me.

Coming up, Shane’s sister.

Amory Sivertson: Check, check. 

It’s a couple weeks after Shane emailed me saying his sister wanted to, quote, “speak openly about something that has caused a lot of pain in our collective lives.”

The murder of her mother-in-law. I’d seen pictures of Shane’s sister in newspaper clippings from the early 2000s. Handcuffed, wearing the stereotypical bright orange jail get-up. No make-up. Her expression ranging from self-assured to resigned. I didn’t know what to expect 20 years later. And the last I’d heard about it from Shane…

Shane Correia: Uhhhhhh…

…didn’t put me at ease. And yet…when she appeared on my screen… I felt surprisingly calm.

Sophia Johnson: Hi. Good morning. 

Amory Sivertson: How are you? 

Sophia Johnson: I'm okay. 

This is Sophia.

Sophia Johnson: A little nervous. I won't lie.

Amory Sivertson: Yeah. Well, we’re embarking on something new.

I say that as if I knew WHAT we were embarking on. But listening back to this, I wanna warn my past self: 'Girl, you have NO idea what’s coming.' Sophia didn't either.

Sophia Johnson: well, let's just see where it goes. Why not? 

Sophia showed up to our first video call looking nothing like the woman I’d seen in the newspapers — her long, jet-black hair shiny and neat, her face impeccably made up: winged eyeliner, red lipstick, meticulously shaped eyebrows, and an almost airbrushed appearance that defied everything I knew about her life at that point.

Sophia Johnson: I wake up, I have usually several cups of coffee and I’m watching the news

She sounded so… normal. Sweet, even.

Sophia Johnson: I do a little bit of gardening, I listen to music.

She was talking to me from [BLEEP]. Yeahhhhh, I can’t say where she is. I can’t say why I can’t say either. Yet.

I can say… that, contrary to her appearance, Sophia feels anything but put-together inside.

Sophia Johnson: The only thing I can do, because I'm at my bottom, is stand up for myself because I have zero expectations that anyone else can do it for me.

She feels held back from the life she had imagined for herself. A life that was really just starting 22  years ago… with a new husband of 4 months… new in-laws with whom she’d quickly become close.

Then came January 10th, 2002. Sophia’s mother-in-law, Marlyne, was supposed to come over to her house for lunch that day. She didn’t show… and when Sophia and her husband went over to Marlyne’s house to check on her, they found her… lying on the basement floor.

Dispatcher: 911, how can I help you? 

Sophia Johnson: Hi, I have an emergency.

Marlyne Johnson had been bludgeoned to death.

Dispatcher: Do you know what happened to your mom? 

Brad Johnson: She was murdered. 

Dispatcher: Okay. Who murdered your mom? 

Brad Johnson: I have no idea. 

Dispatcher: What makes you think she was murdered? 

Brad Johnson: The hammer imprint on her forehead where there was teeth and eyeballs.

Amory Sivertson: Is there something that you typically do on this day?

Sophia Johnson: This is a day I wish never existed.

It’s now January 10th, 2022 — twenty years to the DAY that Sophia’s mother-in-law was murdered. Sophia is in her mid-40s at this point, but every year, on this day… she says she's transported back.

Sophia Johnson: I'm 23 years old in my head and this is 2002. And you know what I thought? I thought it's January 10th, and whoever did this to her, do they know that it's January 10th? 

Do they know? They’re out there. Somewhere. Then again, there are a lot of people who would say… that the person who killed Marlyne… is talking to me right now.

Sophia Johnson: I wanna say, and be very honest with you, that if I did Marlyne's murder, they wouldn't have to worry about finding me. I would turn myself in.

Sophia has always held fast that she DID NOT kill her mother-in-law. But she also says… there’s a LOT to this story that she’s never told ANYONE until now. This is how she thinks about her life.

Sophia Johnson: It is a house that has lots of boxes. And lots of different rooms that need to be unpacked and not necessarily sure where to start.

Amory Sivertson: Okay. It's Monday, April 26, 2021, and I got a box today. [00:00:14]

The day I started unpacking metaphorical boxes with Sophia, a physical one showed up at my office.

Inside this box… were VHS tapes.

Amory Sivertson: Sophia says that she's never watched them. She told me today that she does not want to watch them and. // she said that she's worried that, like, it'll put someone else's version of the story back in her head. And right now she just wants to focus on what she knows to be true about what happened      

13 tapes in black and gold cardboard cases.

Amory Sivertson: Oh, this is a lot. 

It was like a time capsule, this box. Those white stickers along the long edges, handwriting labeling each one in blue and black pen.

Amory Sivertson: Alright, let’s see. So these tapes on the side, oh my god, it says State v. Johnson, Sophia. 

Judge Woolard: We're ready for the jury?  

Tom Duffy: Yes, your honor. 

Therese LaVallee: Yes, your honor. 

Judge Woolard: Thank you.

These tapes are the video footage of Sophia’s murder trial. And they were really just the beginning. I didn’t know what was in all of Sophia’s boxes. I know now… there’s abuse. Disownment. Financial crimes. Deportation. To start.

The boxes of my OWN life… look nothing like Sophia’s. And yet, the more of HERS I’ve opened, the more I’ve realized that they hold a lot of my greatest fears: being betrayed by someone who’s supposed to be on my side; never being truly believed; loving something more than anything in the world, only to have it taken away.

Sophia Johnson: My son turned 19 years old yesterday, never met him. Don't know anything really about him. 

Her SON. When Sophia was accused of bludgeoning her mother-in-law to death, she was SIX MONTHS PREGNANT. She gave birth to her only child while incarcerated, and hasn’t seen him since.

Sophia Johnson: And I do not want another one of his birthdays to go by without at least having an image of me and hearing the truth about what I'm sure he's read and heard about his entire life.

That’s when I realized… that Sophia is really trying to clear her name in the eyes of ONE person.

Sophia Johnson: The only thing he will ever know is that I was accused, his grandmother is dead. This is my legacy. This is forever my legacy. 

But maybe… it doesn’t have to be. Sophia can’t start over, but she might still have time to CHANGE that legacy. Pretty early into reporting this story, someone told me that Sophia's life just seems so... FUBAR. I wasn't familiar with this term, but it's a military acronym. 'Fucked up beyond all repair.' BEYOND ALL REPAIR. That idea has stayed with me. Not as a statement... but a QUESTION. Is Sophia’s life beyond all repair? And if she is, in fact, innocent of murder, will telling her story help change some people’s minds about her?  Starting, perhaps, with Shane…

Shane Correia: Do I believe what she's saying, that she believes she's innocent. Like I can believe that. But belief is very different from fact, you know, like someone still died. 

Sophia Johnson: if he believes, if anybody believes that I am that person, then I just don't know what that says. That means that I'm not explaining it right or he doesn't know enough. And I never want my son to ever think that: “Mom, I love you anyway.” That is not the right answer. That's not the right answer.

The right answer, to ME… is just the truth. I’ve been up-front with Sophia about this from the very beginning.

Amory Sivertson: I can't root for people in this story, but I can root for the truth. And if the people are aligned with the truth, then I'm rooting for the people, you know? 

Sophia Johnson: I agree with that. 

It’s been almost 3 years since my first conversation with Sophia. I’ve spoken to dozens of people connected to this story. I have thousands of pages of case files and court records. I have in-for-ma-tion. And now…

Shane Correia: What the f***? 

Shane does, too.

Shane Correia: Oh, this hurts. This hurts. I can't read it. 

20 years after this murder uprooted his life, Shane’s decided he’s not going to surrender to the justice system anymore. Because, according to the justice system, this murder is technically a cold case.

Shane Correia: This is not right. I don't care who it is. 

Next time, Shane digs into his sister’s case file.

And I dig into Sophia’s trial… and the key witness who testified against her.

Sean Correia: the person kinda was like a stocking off their face. And it turned out to be… my sister. 

Sophia’s OTHER brother.

Sean Correia: I’m gonna fight you guys. 

Beyond All Repair is a production of WBUR, Boston’s NPR, and ZSP Media.

It’s written and reported by me, Amory Sivertson, and produced by Sofie Kodner.

Mix, sound design and original scoring by Paul Vaitkus, production manager of WBUR Podcasts.

Theme music by me.

Our managing producers are Samata Joshi for WBUR and Liz Stiles of ZSP. The show is edited and executive produced by Ben Brock Johnson of WBUR and Zac Stuart-Pontier of ZSP Media.

If you have questions about the case, the real people at the center of this story, or anything else about this series, we want to hear ‘em. Email Voice message or written message.

THANK YOU for listening.

Consider becoming a "BEYOND" member today:

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Headshot of Amory Sivertson

Amory Sivertson Host and Senior Producer, Podcasts
Amory Sivertson is a senior producer for podcasts and the co-host of Endless Thread.


Headshot of Sofie Kodner

Sofie Kodner Freelance Producer, WBUR Podcasts
Sofie Kodner is a freelance podcast and documentary producer.


Headshot of Paul Vaitkus

Paul Vaitkus Production Manager, Podcasts
Paul Vaitkus is the production manager for WBUR's podcast department and is responsible for all things audio.



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