Queen of hearts prompts cold case arrest, Kirkland father recalls daughter’s 1979 murder

Susan Schwarz may have been the queen of her father's heart, but it was her place as the queen of hearts in a deck of playing cards that may have led to finding her murderer 32 years after her death.

Susan Schwarz may have been the queen of her father’s heart, but it was her place as the queen of hearts in a deck of playing cards that may have led to finding her murderer 32 years after her death.

Kirkland resident Henry Schwarz, 82, has had to forget Oct. 22, 1979 to continue living. But now he knows the man who is the alleged killer that took his daughter.

“Truly, it was the only way I could deal with it,” said Schwarz, about trying to forget. “I had to play like it never happened. I buried it so deep now it is just words.”

The 57-year-old suspect, Greg D. Johnson, was arrested on April 22 at his Seattle home and later charged in connection with the murder of the Bothell High School graduate.

“His bail was originally set at $1 million, but they have increased it,” said Schwarz. The man’s bail was set for $5 million during a hearing on Monday, according to Snohomish County Sheriff Det. Jim Scharf.

The break in the case came via a deck of playing cards put together by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office cold-case team. A prison inmate gave investigators a tip after seeing Susan’s playing card. The cards are produced with the victim’s face on the front and a description of the incident on the back.

The playing cards were produced in 2008.

“They made my daughter the queen of hearts,” said Schwarz. “They told me there was a chance that someone in prison might know about it.”

The tip led investigators to a former girlfriend of the suspect’s, who told investigators that she was there on the night of the murder and witnessed the suspect kill Susan Schwarz. The girlfriend also gave investigators independent details of the crime scene and residence that matched the case.

Susan, 24, was found dead with her hands tied behind her back and a gun shot wound to the back of her head at her Lynnwood home on Oct. 22, 1979. Items were also missing from the home, pointing towards a burglary.

From the outset, the suspect’s name was connected to the murder, but police did not have enough evidence to make an arrest. The suspect was the estranged husband of Susan’s best friend, who had moved to Minnesota in 1978 with the couples 2-year-old son, according to Snohomish County Sherrif Office documents.

Approximately two weeks prior, Susan’s best friend had returned to Washington and had spent a lot of time with Susan and deciding whether to get back together with the suspect. Upon contact, the friend told investigators that Susan had urged her to leave the suspect because she did not like him. She also told police that she left the suspect because he was violent, had been involved in an armed robbery and had a girlfriend, according to police documents.

When contacted, the suspect told investigators that he was fishing in Everett on the day Susan was killed, but his statement could not be fully confirmed. In 1986, detectives went to talk with the suspect in prison where he was serving time for armed robbery. His brother was also serving time for a murder that was similar to Susan’s death. The Seattle man told investigators during an interview that he dropped off his brother and two other unidentified people for a burglary and that his brother later admitted to killing Susan.

The suspect has an extensive criminal history, including multiple robbery and drug convictions, according to police records.

For Henry Schwarz, the news of the arrest came via an Associated Press reporter last week.

“I was shocked to get that call from someone I didn’t know,” said Schwarz, “And then I got all these other calls from the TV stations.”

The media attention and Susan’s murder has been the toughest on Susan’s brother, Gary, who also graduated from Bothell High School.

“My closure took place 25 years ago,” said Susan’s father. “They were the best of friends and I hope this will give him some closure.”

Schwarz said he does not plan to follow the court proceedings, but he will just stay in contact with his son.

The Snohomish County Sherrif’s cold-case team has more than 60 unsolved killings and missing-person cases that date back to the 1970s.