A 25-year-old man charged with murder in the brutal killing of an Alfred woman in Florida had been released from jail three weeks before police say he killed Judith Therianos as they had sex in a wooded area near a commercial center.

Timothy F. Johnson, a homeless man from New Port Richey, Florida, had been out of jail for 23 days when police say he killed Therianos in March. He was free because prosecutors failed to file charges within 30 days of his arrest stemming from an alleged assault.

Johnson had been arrested Jan. 17 on two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly climbing through the window of a home and threatening two people with a large kitchen knife, according to court documents. No one was physically harmed, court documents said.

Florida criminal procedure requires sworn statements from witnesses to formalize some types of charges, and the victims in the aggravated assault case did not respond to requests to come forward or to subpoenas requiring their testimony, said Chris LaBruzzo, Pasco County assistant state attorney, who is prosecuting Johnson in Therianos’ slaying.

“We have a responsibility to file charges in cases we can prove and in cases where witnesses are cooperative,” LaBruzzo said. “We can’t hold people indefinitely.”

Although all inmates have a right to file habeas corpus petitions to challenge their incarceration, Maine doesn’t have a law that mandates the release of a suspect if charges are not filed within a set period.

Although Johnson had been unable to post bail in the assault case, he was released from the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center on Feb. 19, 33 days after he was arrested. Witnesses in the assault case came forward a few days after his release and the aggravated assault charges were officially filed Feb. 25. Johnson, however, remained free for nearly a month, long enough to cross paths with Therianos, police say.

So far it is unknown what brought Therianos and Johnson together the evening of March 13.

She had traveled to Florida in February to visit an ailing friend and to vacation, said her son, Shawn Therianos, in an interview Monday.

After visiting with her friend, Therianos began working temporary positions through a staffing agency in Florida to pay her way while there and to save for a bus ticket back to Maine. New Port Richey is a city of 15,000 people about 25 miles northwest of Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Shawn Therianos said his mother struggled with a drinking problem.

In his last conversation with his mother on March 12, the day before she was killed, Therianos told her son that she was riding around with a man she had met named Charlie and they had been drinking. Police have said the man identified as Charlie was not involved in her death.

“She told me she had gotten into a fight with someone and gotten a black eye. She didn’t say who,” Shawn Therianos said. “Then we hung up the phone and whatever, I didn’t think anything of it. She was living the life, I guess. We didn’t talk a whole lot. “

The next day, she left a voice message for her son at home, telling him she wanted to speak with his daughter, her granddaughter. It was the last he heard from her.

Therianos was reported missing March 19.

Her body was discovered April 7 in the woods off Highway 19 in Pasco County, Florida.

By that time, Johnson was back in jail. He had been re-arrested March 23 for violating the conditions of his probation related to a June 2015 misdemeanor battery charge. He also had been formally arraigned on the aggravated assault charges that led to his previous arrest, LaBruzzo said.

While in jail, police say Johnson admitted his role in Therianos’s death to another inmate and separately to another acquaintance. In their investigation, police discovered that Therianos and Johnson were seen together the day of her alleged murder and were recorded on a store surveillance camera buying alcohol.

Police say Johnson and Therianos were having consensual sex in the wooded area near off U.S. Highway 19, but when she told him to stop, he panicked and choked her until she stopped breathing. He pulled her dress over her head and then “bashed her brains in,” according to a witness who heard Johnson confess to the killing.

A medical examiner found Therianos died of blunt force trauma, her right eye and nose crushed by severe blows.

After the killing, Johnson stole Therianos’ laptop and debit card, but tossed the computer in a nearby dumpster, police say. He used her debit card to buy a meal at a local Waffle House and to buy a four-pack of beer. Then he returned and had sex with her corpse.

Johnson then left the crime scene, bought a bottle of rubbing alcohol, returned and poured it on Therianos’s body in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence, police say.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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