At last, some of the weight that JoAnn Reeves’ family felt waiting for justice was lifted.

To symbolically mark that feeling, they gathered at her plot in the cemetery Monday and had a balloon release ceremony.

The ceremony followed the guilty plea by the man responsible for Reeves’ death, James Johnson.

Johnson pleaded guilty to murder and felon in possession of a firearm on Monday in Ashley County Circuit Court.

Reeves’ family was present in court on Monday and consented to the plea. Johnson will serve 40 years, day for day. Reeves’ daughter, Stacey Reeves, said she feels like justice was served, but her mother will always be loved and missed.

Johnson, 59, first received the criminal charges to which he pleaded in 2018.

A report at the Ashley County Sheriff’s office said that on Feb. 18, 2018 Johnson called 911 and reported that he had killed his girlfriend and shot himself.

The report also said that when officers arrived Johnson was transported to the hospital with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was not charged for several days after the shooting because he was hospitalized.

County Coroner Steve Hartshorn pronounced Reeves dead at the scene.

An autopsy later revealed that Reeves was shot 10 times and that six bullets were retrieved during the autopsy procedure.

Stacey Reeves said that she feels like her mother’s death could have been prevented as Johnson was a known felon and had pulled a gun on her mother in October 2017.

“James should have been charged with felon in possession of a firearm that day, but he wasn’t and we believe that if James had been arrested that day it may have saved our mother’s life,” she said.

Stacy Reeves said the family was able to make their way through the court process with the help of others.

“I would really thank everyone for their prayers and support, especially Amy Simone and Laura Abott,” Stacey said.

Abott and Simone are both advocates with different victim groups in Arkansas.

“They stood up for us and fought with us through the court process,” Stacey said.

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