The Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson in 1981 earned global attention as it was the first known United States court case in which the defense attempted to argue demonic possession to prove the defendant’s innocence. Arne Cheyenne stood accused of killing his landlord Alan Bono, but he denied personal responsibility for the crime on account that demons had taken over his body.
Arne was supposedly the unfortunate host of a demon that had been exorcised from David Glatzel, his fiancé’s brother. Cheyenne was at the alleged exorcism and taunted the demon to get out of David and possess him instead. The demon obliged, Cheyenne argued, and consequently, caused him to kill Alan Bono.
The first ‘Devil Made Me Do It’ case has inspired several productions and publications, the latest one being The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Arne Cheyenne is alive and lives a quiet life surrounded by family.
Arne Cheyenne adopted a secretive personal life after his release from prison
Arne’s attorney, Martin Minnella, believed that Arne was possessed. No one could convince him that human hands could inflict the type of stab wounds on Bono’s body. “I went to see Ed and Lorraine [paranormal investigators] and I decided to take the case after talking to them,” Minnella told The Washington Post.
“They told me that when you’re possessed, you have no control over your actions. That stuck in my mind.” Martin told the Post that his court argument would revolve around religion. “The courts have dealt with the existence of God, and now they’ll be asked to deal with the existence of the demonic spirit.”
Judge Robert Callahan swiftly rejected the defense, referring to it as ‘irrelative and unscientific.’ He said that the ‘business or hobby’ of locating demons ‘has not risen to that level of viability where it would be of assistance to the jury in deciding the case.’ Therefore, the jury didn’t get to hear the ‘devil made me do it’ defense.
Instead, Martin presents a self-defense argument at the trial that lasted about three weeks. After the trial, the jury deliberated for 15 hours and returned a guilty verdict. Arne was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter.
He married his fiancé Debbie while in prison in 1984. Five years after Arne’s sentencing, the parole board approved his early release as he had been a model inmate. Seemingly tired of the intense media attention, Arne chose a secretive life with his wife Debbie. The couple went on to have two children together.
Lorraine Warren stated that Arne worked for a landscaper after his release. Arne and Debbie also helped produce The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. Sadly, Debbie passed away before the film’s release. Director Michael Chaves told Digital Spy:
“This is the story of Arne and also his girlfriend who became his wife, Debbie Glatzel. She was there during the exorcism, she was there at the murder and she testified for him and she believed. She stood by that and they’ve been married the rest of her life, she actually just passed away from cancer.”
Some members of the Glatzel family claim that the Warrens fabricated the possession story for attention
The Glatzel family sought the help of paranormal investigators Ed and Loraine Warren after they failed to diagnose David Glatzel’s erratic behaviors. Ed and Lorraine helped put together an exorcism, which allegedly freed David from his demons. Unfortunately, the demons found refuge in Arne.
Brookfield’s then-Police chief John Anderson told The Washington Post that, initially, he didn’t see anything unusual with the killing. “Somebody got angry, an argument resulted,” he stated. Everything changed when the world learned of Arne’s alleged defense. “We couldn’t have a simple uncomplicated murder, oh no,” John added.
At the time, the Glatzel family and the Warrens put up a united front. However, in 2007, Carl Glatzel, David’s brother, claimed that the Warrens had fabricated the story to earn publicity. He claimed that the Warrens promised the family millions for their input in Lorraine’s book, The Devil in Connecticut, but the Glatzels only got $2,000.
Carl said that ‘the Warrens concocted a phoney story about demons in an attempt to get rich and famous at our expense.’ He stated that David was not possessed, but he suffered from mental health issues, which he simply recovered from. In 2007, David and Carl sued the Warrens for unspecified financial damages.
Arne and Debbie have always backed up the demonic possession story as told by the Warrens. However, David’s father denies that his son was possessed. Some claim that the alleged exorcisms that preceded the murder didn’t take place. Director Michael Chaves believes the Warrens’ story. “I think without a doubt the Warrens believe he was possessed,” Michael told Digital Spy.
“They put their careers on the line for it.” Ed Warren opines Arne learned his lesson and wouldn’t dare take on demons again. He told Digital Spy:
“Possession doesn’t last 24 hours a day. It comes quickly and leaves quickly. Arne understands what happened to him. He now knows if something happens how to ward it off and he won’t be stupid enough to take on the devil again.”