Teen ‘Brutally Tortured and Murdered' Foster Mom, Another Man, Police Say

Johnson was placed in the home of one of his victims three days before her murder, authorities said

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What to Know

  • Xavier Johnson, 17, is charged in the killings of his foster mother, Renee Gilyard, and another man he spent time with in foster care, Jimmy Mao.
  • Police said Johnson committed the crimes as part of an effort to rob the victims.
  • Johnson was placed in Gilyard's care three days before she was killed.

A 17-year-old is charged with murdering his foster mother and another man in a set of killings homicide detectives described as brutal.

Xavier Johnson sought to rob 64-year-old Renee Gilyard and 20-year-old Jimmy Mao, Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jason Smith said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Smith said Johnson "brutally tortured and then murdered" both victims.

"It is my hope that his arrest will provide some degree of solace to their families, friends and communities," Smith said.

Gilyard, the mother of a Philadelphia police officer, was found dead overnight Wednesday in her East Germantown home. She was stabbed twice in the neck inside a bathroom. Her purse was emptied and SUV was taken.

Renee Gilyard, 64

Johnson was placed in her home three days before the killings. Police caught up with him in West Philadelphia later Wednesday morning when he crashed the missing SUV following a short police pursuit.

Mao was stabbed in the face and neck, Smith said. His body was placed in a black duffel bag and thrown down a hill in Southwest Philadelphia. It was recovered by police on Wednesday evening.

Timeline of Events

Smith said Mao and Johnson previously lived together in a different foster home on Angora Terrace. It was near where Mao's body was located.

Homicide detectives believe Johnson took a PlayStation gaming console, video games and cash, Smith said.

A third person, 16-year-old Jacob Merritt-Richburg, remains missing. Police linked him to Johnson and Mao. The investigation into his disappearance remains open.

Jimmy Mao, 20, and Jacob Merritt-Richburg, 16
Philadelphia Police
Jimmy Mao, 20, and Jacob Merritt-Richburg, 16

A kitchen knife was recovered, Smith said. Forensic testing is ongoing to determined if it was the murder weapon.

"There's a good possibility that it is," Smith said.

Johnson, who is police custody, but has yet to be interviewed, faces a slew of charges including murder, robbery, abuse of a corpse and weapons charges. He is charged as an adult.

Smith said Johnson has five prior arrests that included aggravated assault.

Mao's family members held a vigil for him Thursday at 6:30 p.m. around the same area where his body was found.

Mao had a child on the way and was finishing his GED, according to his family. His sister told NBC10 English was his second language which is why he was in foster care. She also said he was only at the foster home on Angora Terrace for two weeks before his disappearance.

A spokesperson for DHS told NBC10 they couldn't discuss the specifics of the case due to confidentiality laws but they did release a statement on the two murders.

"We are heartbroken over the recent deaths," a spokesperson wrote. "Foster parents are unsung heroes, providing safe and loving homes for children in their care and service to the community. The losses we face today are unthinkable and we grieve along with the families and communities."

A 17-year-old boy is charged with killing his foster mother as well as a 20-year-old man who was also in foster care. NBC10's Matt DeLucia has the details.

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