Name: Michael Guy Johnston
Case Classification: Endangered Missing
Missing Since: July 22, 1981
Location Last Seen: Brigham City, Box Elder County, Utah
Date of Birth: July 10, 1949
Age: 32 years old
Height: 5'10" - 5'11"
Weight: 160-165 lbs.
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Blue to bluish-grey (listed as brown in some places)
Distinguishing Marks/Features: Mustache and possible goatee; scars: right forearm 5", right knee 1", lower right leg, and forehead.
DNA: Not Available
Additional Personal Items: Unknown
Mr. Johnston was last seen July 22, 1981 at the motel apartment of an acquaintance. Rudy Matthew Rebeterano was convicted of the second-degree murder of
Mr. Johnston. It was the first time in the state of Utah that a person was convicted of murder without a body. The facts of the case
are below, as presented in court by the state of Utah:
"[Rebeterano] is the ex-husband of Debbie Griffiths. On the evening of July 21, 1981, the defendant ate dinner with Griffiths at her motel apartment. He assisted in preparing the dinner by peeling potatoes with a knife. After dinner, Griffiths and her brother Richard went to a nearby bar and the defendant accompanied them. At the bar, Griffiths met the victim, Mike Johnston, for the first time. The two talked and played pool together. The defendant was visibly jealous. When the bar closed at 1:00 a.m., Griffiths and Johnston were in the bar talking, and the defendant had somehow been locked out. The defendant pounded on the door and yelled angrily. Griffiths testified that the defendant was upset because she was paying attention to Johnston.
At about 1:30 a.m., Griffiths and Johnston left the bar and went to the house of another person Griffiths had met that night. At about 5:30 a.m., Johnston drove Griffiths back to her apartment. Griffiths asked Johnston to escort her inside, because she feared that the defendant might be hiding there. Upon entering, they discovered that the defendant was hiding there. He said to Johnston, "What the hell are you doing here?" Griffiths quickly left the apartment, and as she did, she heard scuffling and then a loud groan that sounded "like someone getting hit in the stomach." After leaving the apartment, Griffiths ran under a bridge to the other side of the street. Looking back, she saw the defendant leave the apartment carrying a large white bundle, which he placed in the trunk of Johnston's car. He then got into the car and drove away. Mike Johnston was never seen again.
Griffiths called the police and two officers arrived at her apartment at 6:08 a.m. They found fresh blood splattered throughout the apartment. Blood from one large spot was determined to be type A the same as the victim's. The defendant's blood is type O. A white sheet had been removed from Griffiths' bed and kitchen knives were missing, including the knife that the defendant had used to peel potatoes the evening before.
Later that same day, July 22nd, the police discovered Johnston's car parked less than two blocks away from Johnston's apartment. The rear bumper was stained with blood which appeared to have been smeared from the inside of the trunk outward. Inside the trunk, a large puddle of fresh blood had soaked into the trunk mat. The blood was determined to be type A. The police also discovered a Zippo lighter and two Pall Mall cigarettes inside of the trunk. Johnston's roommate, Ronald Mason, testified that Johnston usually carried that type lighter and cigarettes in his shirt pocket.
On August 6, 1981, approximately two weeks after Johnston's disappearance, a maintenance worker at the motel found a knife on the motel roof. Griffiths identified it as the knife that the defendant had used to peel potatoes on the evening of July 21st. The knife blade had rusted, but a spot of blood was discovered on the handle. Analysis showed it to be either type A or type B human blood. When animal blood is typed, it is sometimes mistaken for type B human blood; therefore, if the knife had been used to cut meat, the blood from the meat could account for classifying the blood as type B human blood. On the above evidence, the jury could have reasonably concluded that the defendant had intentionally killed Johnston."
Rebeterano has served his sentence and finished parole. Johnston's remains still have not been located.
Agency Name: Brigham City Police Department
Agency Contact Person: N/A
Agency Phone Number: (435) 734-6650 or (435) 723-5227
Agency E-Mail: N/A
Agency Case Number: 81-03907
NCIC Case Number: Unknown
NamUs Case Number: 15009
Utah Department of Public Safety
Justia: State v. Rebeterano
Deseret News (July 31, 2004) Salt Lake Tribune (July 31, 2004)
Added: Prior to 2011; Last Updated: 3/17/2017
Questions or comments? Please contact appropriate member of the Area Team
** Listed information is from the time of disappearance.