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26. Dear Wesley

The following is a copy of a typed letter sent to Mr. Welsey Irvin Johnson. Charged alongside Dennis Wayne Smith in 1975 for the murders of John Arnsdorff (33), Caleb McDowell (39), and James Wagner (19), Wesley is now 68 years old serving multiple life sentences at Wakulla Annex in Crawfordville, Florida. During his incarceration, Wesley attempted to commit suicide by fashioning a noose with materials torn from the mattress in his jail cell. He also attempted an escape on April 30th, 1979 from Bradford County.

This is an ongoing story and we will keep you posted on Wesley's reponse, if any. If you're interested in reaching out to Wesley, send us a message via the "Contact" portion of our site, and we'll be in touch.


Dear Wesley,

I hope this letter finds you well. My name is [pseudonym used], and I'm a local journalist and lifetime resident of Polk County, Florida. My particular writing interest lies in "mysterious" local stories, and I was hoping you might be willing to help me expand on one I've been researching for years.

I learned about you from a series of old Lakeland Ledger newspaper articles, and I'm interested to know what growing up in Lakeland was like for you as a young man during the 1970's. I'm also particularly curious to know if you may have heard of a woman known as the "Witch of Lakeland", or Rosemary Herrera.

Lakeland has changed quite a bit since the 1970s, from what I understand. It's still a relatively small town, but there is a lot of new growth. It seems they put up new apartment complexes and condos at least once a year. Since COVID hit, Lakeland has also seen an influx of northerners buying up properties left and right for top dollar. This small town ironically feels smaller and smaller with all of these new builds and new residents. It's very different even from when I was a child in the late 80's.

That being said, there are few original residents left who have insight about Lakeland and the community outside the last 20 years or so. This is why I'm interested in speaking with you. I'm very curious to know what it was like for you as a young man in such a rural town.

As I mentioned, I'm also interested to know if you've heard of the "Witch of Lakeland", Rosemary Herrera. I've read she was a fairly notorious character back in those days, and that you'd be hard-pressed to speak with someone who hadn't heard of her. The stories about her seem so fantastic, I can't help but wonder how much truth there is to them, as well as if she was even a real person. I've read rumors she was a pied-piper like figure to teens and children and would take them into her care. I've also read she earned her "witch" reputation from dark-arts practices, beliefs, and influence over those around her. With Lakeland being such a small and (still very much) conservative town, I find it shocking someone like this even existed here. As quaint as Lakeland appears, it is definitely full of interesting stories and surprises.

I appreciate you taking the time to read my letter, and I sincerely hope you're doing well. I apologize for the brevity, but my goal is to be transparent and honest regarding my intentions to communicate. Please do not feel obligated to reply if you do not feel comfortable doing so. If however you would like to correspond, I will respect any boundaries regarding privacy/anonymity you may request. My findings are normally published on a public blog and social media site with a very small following, but if I'm being completely honest, this is more of a personal interest than anything else.

Please feel free to ask me questions as well, and I will try to answer to the best of my ability.

Thank you Wesley for your time, and I hope to hear from you.


[pseudonym used]

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