Somewhere out there, in the best little courthouse in the Kansas prairie (the Linn County Courthouse), is the most fascinating divorce case the local Kansans have ever heard. It is a case of “international intrigue”, the likes of which has never been seen in Kansas, and it spans several countries and continents. It is the case of Johnston v. Johnston (Karen and Chris) and it has put Kansas on the map of The Most fascinating Divorce Cases.
It’s the kind of story that keeps divorce judges awake at night. The opening lines from Kansascity.com:
The judge leaned back in his chair and listened as the attorneys went at it, arguing about stones dug out of the African desert, gems grabbed from Asian jewel cutters and secret bank accounts in Gibraltar and Hong Kong…Karen, who grew up in Kansas City, Kan., was a goldsmith. Chris, born in Virginia, knew gem mining. Before long, they were recruited at a gem show to go to Africa. The company they worked for, Indigo Sky Gems, soon got linked to blood diamonds.
The couple, Chris and Karen Johnston, are jewelers, met in 1994, and were married in the “Mekong Delta on Chinese New Years in 1994.” They dealt deal in rare expensive
gems stones mined in Africa – aka, blood diamonds. The Johnston’s story spans from Kansas, to Namibia, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kosovo, Iraq, Hollywood, Virginia and Mexico. It was a life that seemed like something made for the movies. Sounds like a great screenplay, at least.
Once they moved to Africa, business was good for the Johnstons and they even opened up a restaurant, in addition to a diamond mine:
The Johnstons then started their own garnet mine in the Namibian desert. Chris spent much of his time there. Karen opened a cafe called the Sand Dragon in Omaruru. The stones from their Green Dragon mine were sent to Bangkok for cutting. Business grew. Karen said their gems were bought by Nordstrom and other major department stores
Gary Stone, the Linn County sheriff’s detective, does not see any conflict of interest between living with Karen Johnston and his past efforts to put Chris Johnston in jail. Like many ex-wives, Karen thinks the former spouse is getting away with hidden assets, millions of dollars worth in this case. Like many ex-husbands, Chris says he is essentially broke and that his ex-wife’s greed knows no bounds.
It was Mr. Johnston who filed for divorce in the courts of Namibia, btw. And so he is fighting the decision of the Kansas courts to assert jurisdiction over him. There is no indication he had given up his residency in Kansas, though. So it is unclear why he believes that the courts of Kansas do not have jurisdiction over his person and res. The court did not agree and awarded Karen a temporary spousal and child support order, which, in the aggregate, amounted to a bit more than $35,000 per month – a modest sum, even though her husband’s lawyer says Mr. Johnston can’t afford to pay such an astronomical sum. And then the story just gets crazier. Says the KansasCity.com:
Three months later, the two [Karen and detective Stone] arrived in Bangkok and went to Designs in Vivid Color, a gem-cutting business. An employee there told Chris in a letter that Stone flashed a badge and threatened to call Thai police unless the employee cooperated. The couple left with more than 5,000 gemstones. Chris insists the two stole them. Karen says you can’t steal what’s yours. In a recent interview, she valued the haul at $190,000 if the gems had been cut, which they weren’t. Chris reported to the FBI that Stone used false credentials and wore an official federal jacket to gain entry and intimidate the locals.
Incredible. It would be amazing to be able to interview either Karen or Chris to get their side of the story. But it definitely is a fascinating story coming out of the farmlands of Kansas. It is too much detail to cover in one post, especially since we’ve found out that Mr. Johnston has a pending case on the dockets on Linn County Superior Court against Mr. Stone which we want to delve into. So let’s stop here and you are invited to visit Kansascitydotcom for more on this story. Check back for Part II of this post where we take apart the case of Johnston v. Stone.