KC man charged with fatally beating homeless man with baseball bat for more than an hour

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A KCMO man has been charged after he allegedly fatally beat a homeless man with baseball bat on Christmas Eve, prosecutors say.

James E. Johnson, 38, is now facing second-degree murder and armed criminal action charges in the death of Darren Kirk, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday.

Prosecutors said, according to court documents, KC police responded to a home in the 3300 block of E. 20th Street early Christmas morning after Johnson’s ex-wife called police, saying someone had died outside her home.

According to court documents, the woman said Kirk was a friend of hers and Johnson’s who occasionally stayed with her. She arrived home just after midnight to find Kirk sitting at the bottom of steps outside her home.

Court documents say she thought he was asleep, but when she nudged him, he fell over. She then called police.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner determined Kirk died of blunt-force trauma.

A witness said Johnson later told them that he killed Kirk. Johnson allegedly told the witness that he, his ex-wife and Kirk had been hanging out and drinking on Christmas Eve.

Johnson told the witness that Kirk threatened to put drugs in the ex-wife’s drink and was planning to rape her. When Johnson found out about the threat, he asked his ex-wife to go into another room, court documents say.

Then, Johnson allegedly got a bat and beat Kirk. After the beating, Kirk sat on the floor next to a living room couch for approximately two hours, according to court documents. Johnson and his ex-wife realized Kirk died and carried him out to the steps.

They then called police and came up with the story that Johnson’s ex-wife had found the homeless man outside the home.

The witness told police the two said they didn’t want to go to jail, and they would force the police to shoot them and commit suicide by cop, court documents say.

When taken into custody, Johnson initially claimed he was not home at the time of the homicide. But he later admitted to detectives that he beat Kirk with a baseball bat for more than an hour on Christmas Eve. Johnson then left the home and hid the bat, court documents say.

Prosecutors have requested a $200,000 cash bond.