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Astoria man faces life in prison for ‘cold blooded’ murder of young father of five in 2020: DA

Astoria man arraigned on murder and assault charges for a bloody rampage that took the life of a young father of five near this iconic mural in 2020. (Photo by Bill Parry)

May 17, 2023 By Bill Parry

An Astoria man was indicted by a Queens grand jury and criminally charged with murder for the fatal stabbing of a father of five and for allegedly assaulting the victim’s sister in the spring of 2020, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

Nathaniel Johnson, 57, of 12th Street near Welling Court and the Astoria Houses, was arraigned Tuesday before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder on charges of murder in the second degree, attempted murder in the second degree, manslaughter in the first degree, assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.

According to the charges, on June 7, 2020, at approximately 6:30 a.m., Johnson’s wife, Tangerina Johnson, summoned him to a convenience store near the intersection of 8th Street and Astoria Boulevard. Approximately 10 minutes before Johnson called her husband, she argued with Romeo Bartley, 37, and his sister Amalia Bartley, 34. When Nathaniel Johnson arrived, the sister was in a bodega withdrawing money from an ATM and her brother stood nearby outside.

Video surveillance footage shows Johnson approach the bodega brandishing a knife as his wife pointed out Bartley. Johnson rushed forward and allegedly plunged the knife into his chest then punched and kicked the victim after he fell to the ground, according to charges. When his sister left the ATM, Johnson punched her multiple times in the face then allegedly stabbed her twice in the back.

Officers from the 114th Precinct responded to a 911 call of an assault in progress in front of the iconic “We are family” mural across from the Astoria Houses. EMS arrived at the crime scene and rushed Bartley to Elmhurst Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead a short while later due his injuries, which included puncture wounds to the heart and lung. His sister was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital-Queens, where she was treated for her injury and was able to identify the defendant from an array of photos.

Tangerina Johnson was arrested nearly a year later and convicted by a jury of murder in the second degree, attempted murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon. She was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison.

Nathaniel Johnson eluded capture for nearly three years until NYPD detectives with the Regional Fugitive Task Force tracked him down in Boston. He was extradited back to Queens and booked at the 114th Precinct on May 15.

“Ruthless. Cold blooded. Brutal. That is the only way to describe what is seen on the video and what the defendant is alleged to have done to the young father of five children,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “The defendant will now be held to account.”

Justice Holder ordered Johnson to return to court on July 12. If convicted, he faces 50 years to life in prison.

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