By all accounts, the guy who murdered his former co-worker in front of the Empire State Building last week was a bit of a weirdo — he’s been described as “lonely,” “creepy,” and neighbors say they constantly heard the sound of a vacuum cleaner coming from his apartment.
However, the most telling sign of 58-year-old Jeffrey Johnson’s apparently fragile mental state is the fact that he owned cats — several cats — which are wretched, vile animals that, when coupled with a box of white wine, are the ultimate indicators of complete and utter despair.
Even more disturbing than owning cats, Johnson used to take them for walks, according to one of his former neighbors, who spoke with the Voice this afternoon.
Tara McGuiness lived in the apartment directly above Johnson for about two years. In fact, she moved out of the apartment just six days before Friday’s shooting.
McGuiness says she would often see Johnson standing outside of his apartment getting ready to walk the cats before he’d go and get his mail. She says the few times she spoke with him, the conversation was often feline-related.
What’s even creepier, she says, is that he always wore a grey suit — even in the apartment building.
“I always thought he had a job — he always looked like he was coming home from work,” McGuiness says.
Nope — as McGuiness learned on Friday, Johnson was fired from his job as a designer of women’s accessories at Hazan Imports over a year ago and has been unemployed ever since.
McGuiness says she stopped seeing Johnson around the apartment a few months ago — although, by all accounts, he still lived in the building.
“I wonder if he was sitting in there plotting it the whole time,” she says.
It appears Johnson did have some premeditation, although it’s unclear to what extent — authorities say he didn’t plan to return to the apartment after shooting his victim, Steve Ercolino, a sales rep for Hazan whom Johnson blamed for his getting fired.
Prior to going to the Empire State Building on Friday, Johnson left an envelope with the keys to his apartment with his landlord, who’d asked him to leave the apartment temporarily so he could make some repairs. Johnson reportedly gave him the keys and said that, “things would be taken care of” by Friday.
Friday, Johnson was gunned down by police after shooting Ercolino. He died at the scene. The whereabouts of his cats are unknown.