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25. The Witch and the Devil

What does the disappearance of Ralph Miller and the murder of James Wagner have in common? In this post, we'll provide a recap of links between the two teenagers and those involved with their disappearances.


 

Over the past few weeks, we went back 5 years prior to the Ralph Miller disappearance and looked at the case of James Wagner, another young teenage boy who disappeared and was brutally murdered at the hands of two men. The two men responsible for his death, Wesley Irvin Johnson and Dennis Wayne Smith, were also charged with the murders of Caleb McDowell and John Arnsdorff.


But how does this case tie back to Ralph Miller and the "Witch of Lakeland", Rosemary Herrera?


In earlier stories of the Ralph Miller case, a young girl known as "Mary" (name changed to protect her identity) talks about her relationship with the "witch", Rosemary Herrera. Rosemary took Mary in as a kind of daughter and understudy of the dark arts. Rosemary shared that she believed her destiny was to give birth to the child of the Devil - a sort of flipped immaculate conception, much like the book/film, "Rosemary's Baby". Rosemary believed the Devil would find her in the form of a man, and together they would conceive the Antichrist, jumpstarting the end of an era and the world as we know it.


The identity of this man was unknown at the time, but there were hints sprinkled throughout the Ledger articles. He's often referred to as "the inmate":


Post 4, Something About Mary: Mary once held another seance in a secluded phosphate pit near Lake Luther Road where a person who is now in a Florida jail awaiting trial on three counts of first degree murder stood on a ravine above her group and shouted, "I am the Devil. Mary didn't move - she was in a trance, I think," the inmate said."But you should have seen the other kids fly out of there when I started screaming I was the Devil and wanted to talk to them."


Post 5, The Chosen Few: Another person who feels that April, 1976 will be the beginning of a whole new ballgame is an inmate of a Florida prison who is awaiting trial on three charges of first degree murder. The person was once associated with Sara and said of her crowd, "I was probably the least violent of the bunch." When Ledger reporters asked that person about Ralph Miller's disappearance, the inmate said flatly, "Why bother with Ralph Miller? You should be more concerned with what will happen this April. It's coming down and if you don't believe in it, you're lost."


Post 9, Revelation (Here, Dennis Wayne Smith is named specficially): [...] Almost exactly one year later on Wednesday, September 22 of 1976, The Ledger reports the trial of convicted second-degree murderer, Dennis Wayne Smith. Smith was responsible for the death of James Wagner, a young man who had also gone missing in Lakeland. James Wagner’s name was mentioned alongside Ralph Miller in the very first article of the series, and Ralph’s mother believed that he had most likely met a fate similar to Wagner’s. During Dennis Smith’s trial, he eventually confessed to law enforcement that he not only knew what happened to Ralph Miller, but he was with him on the night he was murdered. Smith also claimed he lived intermittently with the woman known as the Witch of Lakeland, and Sara’s true name was finally revealed: Rosemary Herrara. The Witch of Lakeland was in fact very real, and her true identity had been disclosed to the public.


Post 10, Rosemary: Two second-degree murder please were accepted from convicted killer Dennis Wayne Smith Tuesday after he provided law enforcement officers with detailed information about missing Lakeland youth Ralph Miller who is believed to have been killed six years ago next Sunday. Behind locked doors in a courtroom one of the Hall of Justice, Smith told law enforcement officers and prosecutors what he knew about the disappearance of Miller of Lakeland, who was 17 the day he was last seen by friends and family - Sept. 26, 1970. Smith's revelations provide police with the first break they have received on the long-dormant Miller case. Smith is believed to have been with Miller on the night of his murder or to have known who was with the missing teenager. Investigators believe a woman Smith lived with intermittently six years ago may have ordered the death of Miller because she thought he was an undercover narcotics agent. The middle-aged woman, whose name is Rosemary Herrera, was known as the "Witch of Lakeland," due to her sway over a group of drug-oriented teenagers with Satanic inclinations.


These articles eventually reveal that the alleged "Devil-man" Rosemary was referring to was almost certainly Dennis Wayne Smith. There is no known connection at this point between his accomplice Wesley Irvin Johnson and Rosemary, but it's safe to assume Wesley may have also known Rosemary.


Another interesting piece of information is that there are numerous suggestions in these articles which indicate that Dennis Wayne Smith and Rosemary Herrera lived together at some point. Dennis Wayne Smith's address at the time of his arrest was listed at 728 E Valencia St, Lakeland, FL 33805. This means this Valencia address is most likely the former residence of Rosemary Herrera. Another clue pointing to this fact is that Dennis Wayne Smith violated parole at one point for maintaining contact with an underage girl who also lived at the residence. This was very likely Mary, Rosemary's adoptive daughter and apprentice.


If this connection is valid, then Dennis Wayne Smith and Wesley Irvin Johnson absolutely had connections with the Witch of Lakeland, which also means they may know what happened to Ralph Miller... or at the very least, who may have been involved.


We did a bit more research on Dennis and Wesley, and eventually found incarceration records for both. Unfortunately, Dennis Wayne Smith passed away in prison on February 26th 1998, but Wesley Irvin Johnson is still alive.


Above is a screenshot from the Corrections Offender Network page for Dennis Wayne Smith. The date of his birth corresponds with his reported age at the time of the Ledger articles. The dates of his marijuana charge as well as the murder charges also align.



The Corrections Offender Network page for Wesley Irvin Johnson. Again, all dates align regarding age and the crimes committed, according to Ledger articles.



728 East Valencia Street - the former residence of Dennis Wayne Smith and Rosemary Herrera, the Witch of Lakeland.




There are a few more interesting details surrounding the arrests, trial, and jail time of each inmate, especially Wesley. Wesley attempted suicide once while incarcerated, and even tried to escape in 1978.


Wesley Irvin Johnson is 68 years old residing in Wakulla Annex in Crawfordville, Florida.


Where do we go from here? We write Wesley Irvin Johnson, of course...


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