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Ex-con-turned-NYC criminal justice activist busted after head of prison rival found in freezer of apartment he was seen leaving in blond wig

Ex-con-turned-NYC criminal justice activist busted after head of prison rival found in freezer of apartment he was seen leaving in blond wig

A criminal justice activist is facing murder charges after cops found a dismembered body inside a Bronx apartment — with the accused killer caught on surveillance video disguised in a blond wig at the scene of the crime, according to witnesses and police.

Sheldon Johnson, a 48-year-old staffer for the public law firm Queens Defenders, was led out of the 44th Precinct stationhouse in handcuffs Thursday after police made the grisly discovery — a human torso in a blue bin and a head stashed in a freezer in the sixth-floor apartment, police said.

He was held without bail at his arraignment Thursday night.

Sheldon Johnson getting walked out of the 44th Precinct stationhouse in the Bronx. Matthew McDermott
Sheldon Johnson getting walked out of the 44th Precinct stationhouse in the Bronx. Matthew McDermott
Johnson is facing murder charges after a dismembered body was found in a Bronx apartment that Johnson was allegedly caught on video leaving. Matthew McDermott
Johnson is facing murder charges after a dismembered body was found in a Bronx apartment that Johnson was allegedly caught on video leaving. Matthew McDermott

Johnson, an ex-con who turned his life around and became a well-known victims’ advocate, was featured in Joe Rogan’s podcast and rubbed elbows with VIPs like Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg.

Sources said the victim in this week’s slaying, identified as 44-year-old Collin Small, may have had a beef with Johnson while both were doing time at Sing Sing prison in Westchester County.

Neighbors told cops the victim was heard desperately pleading with his killer shortly before two shots rang out in the apartment near Odgen Avenue and West 162nd Street shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, sources and neighbors said.

“Please don’t,” the doomed man was heard saying.

“I have a family!”

Investigators were first called to the building for a wellness check after the shots were heard and neighbors reported seeing a stranger coming and going from the apartment with cleaning supplies, the building superintendent said.

Building surveillance video showed Johnson arriving to the suspect’s apartment. Obtained by NY Post
Building surveillance video showed Johnson arriving to the suspect’s apartment. Obtained by NY Post

Chilling surveillance video footage obtained by The Post shows Johnson stepping off the sixth-floor elevator on Tuesday, looking around cautiously before he slowly walks to the apartment and goes inside.

He is seen wearing a dark coat over a yellow hoodie — and lugging a mop and a bag that sources said was full of cleaning supplies.

“I said, ‘Listen, I want to do a welfare check on a tenant because the person who is coming in and out is not the tenant,’” the super, who asked not to be identified, told The Post on Wednesday.

He said Johnson carried a blue bin into the apartment at 2 a.m. — and never brought it back out.

Johnson with a blue bin in the hallway. Obtained by NY Post
Johnson with a blue bin in the hallway. Obtained by NY Post
Johnson allegedly in the apartment building while wearing a blond wig. Obtained by NY Post
Johnson allegedly in the apartment building while wearing a blond wig. Obtained by NY Post

“He brought in the bin … I told them, ‘Why is he bringing in the bin at 2 o’clock in the morning? He’s bringing in a bin so late,'” the super said.

“We tried to see if he took out the bin. He never took out the bin. I told them, ‘Look for a bin.’ And sure enough, it was there.”

The super also saw the suspect leaving in the victim’s blue Audi and returning in an Uber wearing a blond wig.

Colin Small, 44
Colin Small, 44

“He is coming in, he is dressing differently, changing his character,” he said.

“I said, ‘That’s not normal, he is hiding something.'”

He said police made an initial check on the apartment but left without busting the suspect.

Johnson supposedly brought a blue bin into the apartment at 2 a.m., the same bin in which police discovered the body. Robert Miller
Johnson supposedly brought a blue bin into the apartment at 2 a.m., the same bin in which police discovered the body. Robert Miller

“The guy stood there,” the super said.

“They took him out and everything. They looked in the apartment, but they didn’t find anything. They apologized, said somebody called, and they have to come.”

He said Johnson then asked to speak with him.

Sheldon Johnson (left), shown shaking hands with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, was a client advocate at the Queens Defenders office. sheldon Johnson/Facebook
Sheldon Johnson (left), shown shaking hands with Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, was a client advocate at the Queens Defenders office. sheldon Johnson/Facebook

“I went back to the house and a neighbor called and said the guy is looking for me, he wants to talk to me,” he said.

“I said, ‘I’m gonna go to him, I’m gonna ask him what he wants, then tell the police what he tells me.’ That was the plan.”

But before the meeting took place, police were back and took Johnson in for questioning.

Police discovered the body while responding to a call for a welfare check. Robert Miller
Police discovered the body while responding to a call for a welfare check. Robert Miller

“If I’d gone, you never know what he was going to do,” the super said.

“He was gonna frame me or shoot me or offer me something to get rid of the cameras or something.”

Tenant Jose Marquez told The Post he saw Johnson walking a small dog days before the murder.

Building resident Jose Marquez said Johnson appeared “well-dressed” when he was outside walking a dog a few days prior to the murder. Robert Miller
Building resident Jose Marquez said Johnson appeared “well-dressed” when he was outside walking a dog a few days prior to the murder. Robert Miller

“It feels like the devil just crawled through here last night,” Marquez said.

The neighbor described him as “quiet” and a “loner.”

“Sometimes we get fooled with the appearance — well dressed … he looks clean,” Marquez said.

Sheldon Johnson claimed he had “turned his life around” after serving time in prison for robbery. sheldon Johnson/Facebook
Sheldon Johnson claimed he had “turned his life around” after serving time in prison for robbery. sheldon Johnson/Facebook

“You are assuming this guy has a professional career — went to work, came back, walked the dog and continued with his personal life.”

Johnson started working as a client advocate at the public defender’s office in Queens sometime after being released from prison in 2019 after serving 20 years for a series of armed robberies in 1999.

In an interview on “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast, Johnson, who claimed he used to be a member of the Bloods gang, told host Josh Dubin he was arrested and sentenced to a maximum of 50 years for using a gun to rob several men who owed him money for drugs.

But after spending some time in and out of solitary confinement, the convicted felon said, he decided to “turn his life around” and got his GED while in prison.

Johnson said he also took courses on deep breathing and conflict resolution while in the slammer.

The Queens Defenders office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.