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Before learning how long he would go to prison Thursday, Joshua Johnson told the judge he knew justice needed to be served for his stabbing a man dozens of times last March in Lincoln, leaving the man with life-threatening injuries.

"I know I'll burn in hell for what I did," the 23-year-old Omaha man said.

Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Jim Rocke asked for a "significant sentence," saying Johnson was very lucky William Lyons lived. Otherwise Johnson, also known as Josh Frezell, would have faced a murder charge.

"And it's amazing that he lived," Rocke said.

He said Lyons had 42 stab wounds and has permanently lost the use of his right hand. It was nearly severed at the wrist, according to court records.

Johnson, who pleaded no contest to first-degree assault, disputes what led to the stabbing, but Rocke said he had been acting as a predator March 3, over a marijuana deal.

Lincoln police were called at around 3:30 p.m. to Stadium Walk Apartments in the North Bottoms about a 21-year-old yelling for help in the parking lot. They found Lyons lying next to a Lexus, bleeding from stab wounds to his head, neck, arms and torso.

Lyons was rushed to a Lincoln hospital with life-threatening injuries. He later told police his assailant was Johnson, his former roommate in Kearney, where they'd both been on the Nebraska-Kearney football team until Johnson was kicked off.

He told police he had agreed to meet Johnson in Lincoln, and that Johnson got into Lyons' car, made small talk for a few minutes, then pulled out a folding knife.

Johnson stabbed him in the rib cage, then again in the chest and in back of one of his hamstrings, before he could get away — Johnson crawling through the car after him.

Outside, Johnson kept stabbing Lyons.

"That doesn't have the ring of self-defense," Rocke said Thursday of Johnson's version.

Before Lancaster County District Judge Kevin McManaman gave Johnson 35 to 45 years in prison, Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Webb Bancroft said Johnson saw Lyons as a threat to him or his family, and now has nightmares at the realization of what happened.

"This is an aberration for him. Violence is an aberration for him," Bancroft said, arguing for probation.

Johnson said he really wanted to apologize to Lyons, who wasn't in the courtroom, and has started accepting that he'll probably never be forgiven for what he did.

"I don't think any human being deserves that," he said.

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On Twitter @LJSpilger.


Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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