At first, the 1981 stabbing death of 40-year-old Alan Bono of Brookfield looked like a routine argument gone awry. Police referred to it as an "open-and-shut case."

But then came Arne Cheyenne Johnson's defense: The devil made him do it.

With the help of a pair of famed paranormal investigators, Johnson's defense attorneys sought to prove the 19-year-old killer was innocent because he had been possessed at the time of the killing. It would be the first time a possession defense was used in an American courtroom.

Bono was stabbed several times in the chest and stomach on the lawn of Brookfield Kennels, which he managed, about 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 16, 1981.

About an hour later, police arrested Johnson — described as a small, blond, fair-skinned man — on a murder charge. The two men had allegedly been arguing over Johnson's girlfriend before the stabbing occurred, the Courant reported.

Taking On The Devil

Days after the stabbing, clergy members, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, Johnson's mother and his girlfriend all claimed Johnson had been possessed at the time of the killing.

The Warrens told police that since July 1980 Johnson had participated in at least three exorcisms involving his girlfriend's 11-year-old brother David, who purportedly had been inhabited by 43 demons.

During one of the rites, the Warrens told police, "Johnson leaped up and cried to the demon, 'Come into me, I'll fight you, come into me,'" The Courant reported on Feb. 27, 1981. "From that time on, he was possessed, they said."

Although police ordinarily would disregard such unusual claims, the Bridgeport diocese's involvement changed things.

"Brookfield priests called in the diocese after they heard the 11-year-old's story that he had recently entered a Newtown house, sat on a water bed and was suddenly confronted by an elderly man with hooves, whose image was soon joined by men in grotesque costumes," the Warrens told police, according to The Courant.

Shortly after Bono was killed, the diocese stopped commenting on the boy's case, but a spokesman did acknowledge that a priest had been assigned to investigate the boy. The spokesman told the Courant it was the first time the diocese had assigned an investigator to look into "diabolical possession."

Johnson was present for the exorcisms and soon began to display violent behavior. At one point, he reportedly put his fist through a chest of drawers, growling like an animal, and then couldn't remember the incident, The Courant reported.

"We knew this case would end in tragedy; it was inevitable," Lorraine Warren told The Courant. "But Arne was the last one we would have ever thought it could happen to."

Before Johnson was indicted on March 19, 1981, Waterbury lawyer Martin J. Minnella offered to take on his case for free. Minnella's plan to pursue the unprecedented "demon possession" defense was widely publicized.

Minnella said he hoped to subpoena the priests involved in the exorcism, and hoped they would break tradition and speak about the rites.

A Fight Over Johnson's Girlfriend

Though police investigated the Warrens' claims, they maintained that Bono was stabbed after a fight over Deborah Glatzel, Johnson's 26-year-old girlfriend.

In April, Johnson's lawyers gained permission to examine the clothing and tissue remains of Bono, who had been cremated. They said the absence of blood, rips or wounds could prove that demons were involved, The Courant reported.

As the case progressed toward trial, the Warrens and Minnella drew criticism from their peers, who said they were involved in the case for personal gain.