Family of 1980 Lakeshore High murder victim wants killer to go free

(Photo supplied/ABC 57)

A convicted murderer in Benton Harbor has surprising allies in his quest for freedom: the victim’s family.

Michael Johnson was convicted of killing 16-year-old Sue Ellen Machemer at Lakeshore High School in 1980 as a 17-year-old. He was convicted to life with the possibiliy of parole, but he hasn’t had a parole hearing.

Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic is appealing a ruling allowing Johnson to be resentenced, but Machemer’s family tells ABC 57 the time has come to let him go free.

“Sometimes I think we get so bogged down in the technicalities we forget what it’s all about,” said David Machemer.

“It’s been 38 years and now when we think of Sue Ellen, it’s more with the good things,” said Ellen Machemer. “We happen to believe she’s in heaven and we’ll see her again and that helps a great deal… we just think it’s time.”

The Machemers have also grown close with Michael Johnson’s family over the years.


  1. Murder… A very serious crime. Without extenuating circumstances to blame, does the ability to repeat a serious crime ever, really go away? If a person is capable of such heinous acts, as a 17 year old, is he ever safe in society again? Where would he live? Who would want to hire him to work, so he could earn a living and take care of himself? Much psychological testing and prep for the outside world would have to be undertaken before this could even be a possible consideration, despite what the family might think.


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