Josh Small

Josh Small

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Two former Mercer County residents are scheduled to be sentenced for their roles in a spree of home invasions and assaults spanning three states.

Joshua Small, 52, and Joni Amber Johnson, 36, both formerly of Princeton, are facing charges of conspiracy to rob, kidnap and assault elderly victims in Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. These crimes were committed between May and July of 2018 according to a release from United States Attorney J. Douglas Overbey of the Eastern District of Tennessee.

After forcibly entering the elderly’s homes the couple would sometimes hold the victims at gunpoint and assault them with physical violence. Small and Johnson would then steal the victim’s valuables and flee.

The couple is involved with six robberies, with three occurring in Tennessee, two in Virginia and one in West Virginia. Of the Tennessee robberies, two of them involved copious amounts of violence toward the elderly victims.

According to the release, the pair invaded a Dandridge, Tenn., home and struck a 72-year-old male in the neck, used power cords to bind his hands and feet then proceeded to push him down his basement stairs. Also in Tennessee, the couple invaded a Jefferson County home and robbed an 81-year-old man of  $3,200 after striking him in the head, gagging him and binding him by his feet and hands.

After binding him, Small told Johnson to “shoot to kill” if the elderly man moved while they searched his home, according to the Standard Banner in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

In July 2018 In Princeton, W. Va., the pair forcibly entered the home of an 88 year-old-woman near Twelve Mile Road, struck her in the face and stole her purse. According to a previous interview with the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Deputy D.A. Calloway of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department stated that a female knocked on the victim’s door asking to use the phone.

After she opened the door a male rushed past the female, struck the victim in the face, knocked her down, then stole her purse and fled. The victim had to be flown to a Roanoke Va. hospital.

In the same month, the pair also committed two robberies in two different Virginia counties. On July 7, 2018, Small and Johnson entered the Narrows home of an elderly male and knocked him onto the ground. One of them held the man at gunpoint while the other stole his wallet according to a previous statement from the Giles County Sheriff’s Office.

On July 17, 2018, the two held an elderly female at gunpoint in her Rocky Gap home demanding she give them her purses. Once she did so they fled the scene, this victim was unharmed.

Prior to the crimes that the couple committed together, Small committed many other crimes throughout the area ranging from burglary to murder. These crimes span from the 1980s to the 2010s.

According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph archives Small was indicted on several charges of breaking and entering and burglary in the area during the 1980s.

In September 1994 Small was charged with the murder of a Princeton man. This murder took place in Dr. T’s parking lot off of 460 where the victim was beaten to death with a pipe wrench. A month after this he escaped police custody, after being arraigned for this first-degree murder charge while being transported to Southern Regional Jail.

Small escaped by kicking the window out of the transportation van. He was able to escape due to him smuggling a shackle key into the van. He then led officers on a manhunt for four hours through Princeton before being found riding a bicycle.

After his escape, jail authorities began placing “cages” on all transportation van windows.

In August 1995 he was found not guilty of the 1994 murder. In October 1995 he was indicted for the 1990 fatal shooting of a Princeton man. After this case was moved to Greenbrier County Small pled guilty to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 5 to 18 years for this murder.

During this indictment, Small was serving time in prison for a parole violation and unlawful wounding. While serving time in the Mount Olive Correctional Center Small was stabbed in the back in 1996. This injury was non-life threatening.

After being released from prison Small was arrested in April 2010 for two malicious wounding counts, a robbery charge and a probation violation after being wanted since February 2010.

Small was charged for 15 crimes in Tazewell County including two counts grand larceny, three counts destruction to property, petit larceny, four counts larceny of a firearm, and four counts statutory burglary. These charges were related to crimes in 2016.

Small was also charged for committing five crimes in Russell County, Va. He was charged with two counts of grand larceny, property damage, and possession of a firearm by a violent felon. He was arrested for these crimes in November 2017. After serving nearly three months for these charges he was released on bond in February 2018.

Three months after being released on bond Small began his aforementioned crime spree with Johnson targetting elderly victims.

Small and Johnson will go before Chief Judge Pamela Reeves in Knoxville on Monday, January 27.

Contact Emily D. Coppola at

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