(KSLA) — A Haughton woman is breaking her silence to bring attention to sexual assault victims.
Samantha Mattison Mcgee refuses the title “victim” and instead refers to herself as a survivor.
Her case, like many others in the criminal justice system, is full of twists and turns until finally someone listened and took action.
Now after more than a decade, Samantha got her day in court. Her testimony at times brought nearly the whole courtroom — including strangers — to tears.
It’s a story of survival and delayed justice.
Childhood memories at her home in Shreveport’s Broadmoor neighborhood hide a terrible secret. At the time, 12-year-old Samantha didn’t know exactly what was happening to her innocent body. But she knew it was bad.
“Usually I was asleep and it would wake me up. Sometimes I would hear him coming and I got scared and I would pretend to be asleep.”
For two years, Samantha endured sexual abuse from a person she trusted — her stepfather, James Daniel Johnson.
She said nothing to her mother, in fear that she wouldn’t believe her, but also because Johnson used intimidation by showing her guns in their home.
However, Samantha said, she didn’t care about the idle threats by the time she turned 13 because she was tired of suffering.
Samantha’s mom, Chris Philipbar, remembers when her daughter came to her.
“I remember sitting her up on the washer or dryer. And it took me a long time to get it out of her. I told her ‘I can’t help you if you don’t tell me'."
Philipbar, a Registered Nurse, ironically just finished training as a sexual assault nurse examiner when her daughter came to her.
“I looked in her eyes and I knew," Philipbar said. "I knew she was telling the truth. As much as I hated to hear it, I knew it.”
Samantha said she was lucky that her mother believed her because, in many incidents, that’s not the case.
Samantha and her mother immediately left the home.
Meanwhile, Samantha said, her stepfather caught wind that authorities had been notified and fled to California, where he pursued a career as a travel nurse.
In 2002, the case was dropped after the Caddo district attorney’s office said there was insufficient evidence.
For 11 years, Johnson thought he escaped the law.
Then when he moved back to the ArkLaTex, his ex-wife tried to resurrect the case with a different set of detectives and under a different district attorney.
“I was angry. He hurt my only child, my only baby in one of the worst ways you could hurt somebody," Philipbar said.
Samantha said that a detective interviewed her and that her testimony matched the testimony on the video recording done by the Gingerbread House, an organization that interviews children after they disclose abuse.
Once the case was reopened, Johnson fled back to California but later was extradited back to Shreveport by U.S. deputy marshals.
Last month, 63-year-old Johnson went to trial after turning down a plea that would have made him a convicted felon and a registered sex offender.
A six-person jury found him guilty of the highest charge — molestation of a juvenile with supervision.
Samantha recalls collapsing when she heard the verdict.
“When I heard his name and they said guilty, I was overwhelmed with emotion. And then I heard ‘molestation,’ knowing that was the word of the highest charge he could have received.”
On Jan. 9, Johnson was back in court for sentencing in front of Caddo District Judge Charles Tutt.
In the statement, she calls him “a monster and a coward and someone who caused her horrific depression to the point she stopped eating.”
Johnson looked at her with no emotion.
Under the 2003 sentencing guidelines from when the case was reported, Tutt sentenced Johnson to five years in prison and ordered him to register as a sex offender for 25 years after he is released.
Samantha was hoping for the maximum sentence of 10 years but she said she is grateful.
“I want to make sure people know there are no winners in this court case," Samantha said. "I may have won the court case, but I am stuck with this for the rest of my life.
"I am okay with what we got. I am very grateful to the judge, the entire process.”
Samantha gives her mother credit for where they are today.
“We would not be sitting here talking about a victory had it not being for my Mom.”
Philipbar said it has been a journey.
“We have gone through the trenches of this war and she has really come out the victor.”
Because of Samantha’s case, her mother founded a nonprofit with her husband, Dr. Keith Scott, called Forensic Nurse Examiners of Louisiana. It’s a program in which nurses are specially trained to collect evidence from rape victims of all ages in 11 parishes.
The nurses are called SANEs, which stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. They use the Personal Evidence Recovery kit.
Unfortunately at the time Sam disclosed her sexual abuse, there were no pediatric acute examinations in the early 2000s. A protocol is now in place because of Philibar.
“It means within 72 hours of an event happening to a child, when they come to the ER, the whole cascade of the whole sexual assault team gets notified and everything happens in a certain algorithm in a certain way.”
Unlike Texas, Louisiana provides no funding for SANEs. They operate entirely off donations and federal grants and are always in need of funding in order to continue providing these services.