Sullivan County man charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, rape; suspect's manslaughter sentence expired last year

Rain Smith • Aug 25, 2010 at 4:11 AM

A Bristol man who pleaded no-contest to voluntary manslaughter in 2000 — and was released from prison last year — has now been arrested for allegedly raping and attempting to kill another victim.

Johnny Royston, 60, address provided as Highway 421, Bristol, Tenn., was arrested Tuesday night. In 1998 he stabbed his live-in girlfriend to death, then set her body on fire days later.

A Sullivan County Sheriff's Office press release says that on Sunday Royston and another man took a woman to a bar in Bristol, Tenn. Police say the woman didn't go inside with the men, but remained in the car and fell asleep.

"They then drove back to residence located on Highway 421 and the victim only remembers waking up inside a camper with Johnny Royston," reads the press release. "She had been bound with rope and had a rope leash around her neck. The victim was violently raped, choked, and beaten."

Royston has been charged with aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and attempted first degree murder. He is held in the Sullivan County jail without bond.

As of Wednesday evening the Sheriff's Office had not released full arrest or incident reports, and the circumstances and location of Royston's arrest was not known.

On Nov. 15 of 1998, Royston was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and arson in the death of Debbie Kay Hyatt, 20. He was located with the use of K9 officers, hiding in the woods and donned in camouflage.

Three days prior firefighters had responded to Royston's trailer, 267 Old Cardon Hollow Road. Sheriff Wayne Anderson said doors to the structure were padlocked from the outside. It wasn't until responders extinguished the flames that Hyatt's body was found in a back bedroom.

Hyatt, Royston's girlfriend, was said to have died of, "multiple stab wounds to the head and neck area." Investigators determined it was "days later" before Royston poured accelerant over her body and lit it on fire.

Hyatt had to be identified through dental records. Meanwhile detectives received information that Royston was on Holston Mountain, and used K9s to locate him.

Royston was imprisoned after pleading no-contest to voluntary manslaughter and arson in Sullivan County Criminal Court in May 2000. His sentence expired in February of 2009.

On Wednesday, a Tennessee Department of Corrections spokeswoman said Royston was not currently under any form of supervision.

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