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Woman Accused of Ambushing Husband and Teen Daughter in Fatal Slayings — Though Defense Says It’s More Complicated

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A San Diego woman is on trial for allegedly fatally shooting both her teenage cheerleader daughter and her husband five years ago, amid mounting domestic tension — though her attorney has reportedly argued it was the husband who actually killed the girl, leading his wife to shoot him in revenge.

On or about May 30, 2012, 60-year-old Regina Renee Johnson, of San Carlos, California, shot her 14-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, in the back of the head before turning the gun on her 56-year-old husband, Reuben Johnson, San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney alleged in opening statements Monday in San Diego Superior Court, the San Diego Tribune reports.

Claiming that Regina ambushed her daughter and husband before executing them, Rooney said, “The crime scene will tell you how the defendant found the gun, loaded it and killed her family,” according to the Tribune.

But in his opening statement, public defender Neil Besse told jurors that Reuben allegedly shot the Johnsons’ daughter during a violent argument, leading Regina to shoot and kill him, the Tribune reports.

Regina was arrested on June 2, 2012, and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, according to the criminal complaint, which was obtained by PEOPLE. She had stayed alone in the family’s condo for three days with the dead bodies, according to police reports at the time.

She faces 100 years to life in prison if she is convicted on all charges.

‘You Shot My Baby Girl!’

In the defense’s description of the deadly 2012 shootings, according to the TribuneReuben Johnson got angry when he came home for lunch that May day and found his daughter still home and not at school.

The family had faced many challenges in recent years, leading to the increasing tension, Besse said in court.

Reuben had lost his job and had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, while Regina was struggling with depression, he said.

In the days after the shootings, Regina wrote a message in lipstick to her doctor, who had recently prescribed her Wellbutrin, a medication used to treat depression, saying, “You knew I should not have been taking all that(sic) meds,” the Tribune reports.

While the family was arguing the day of the shootings, Aaliyah retrieved her father’s gun from where he kept it and pointed it at him, Besse claimed. After Reuben knocked it out of his daughter’s hand, she and her mother turned and walked away.

That’s when Regina heard a gunshot, Besse alleged.

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When Regina saw her daughter crumpled on the floor after being hit, she shouted, “You shot my baby girl!” before shooting her husband, Besse claimed.

“In that moment, her daughter’s life and everything it represented flashed before her eyes,” Besse said, the Tribune reports.

Aaliyah was found in the hallway of the family’s home, near her bedroom, with a single gunshot to the back of the head, according to prosecutors. Reuben was found in the doorway to the master bedroom with gunshots to his torso and head.

Prosecutors said that after the shootings, Regina covered her daughter’s body with a blanket and slept next to it for days.

Rooney, the deputy district attorney, contended that Regina’s fingerprints were found “all over” the gun, the Tribune reports. She allegedly had gunshot residue on her hands and admitted to flushing shell casings down the toilet, according to Rooney, and Besse said she didn’t contact family members for days after the shooting.

When Regina did contact relatives, one of them called police on June 2, 2012.

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The chief deputy medical examiner at the time, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, testified that father and daughter had been dead for days, the Tribune reports.

A spokesman for the district attorney told PEOPLE his office couldn’t comment because the case is pending.

Attempts to reach the public defender for comment were not immediately successful on Tuesday.

‘A Pretty Tight Family’

After the slayings in 2012, distraught family and friends said they were stunned by the turn of events, describing the Johnsons as “a pretty tight family,” the Tribune reported at the time.

Regina had worked as an office administrator at a financial firm for 18 years before being laid off at the end of 2011, according to the paper. Rueben retired in 2009 after spending 20 years in the Navy.

Aaliyah’s boyfriend said problems in her parents’ marriage often upset her, the outlet reported. Court documents show the Johnsons had filed twice for bankruptcy, first in 1997 and again in 2009.

Aaliyah was a freshman at West Hills High School in Santee, California, where she had just finished her first year as a cheerleader.