Former U.S. Marine soaks wife in gasoline, sets her on fire

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Brian Early Johnston, a former U.S. Marine, confessed in a Brisbane court on Wednesday to killing his estranged wife. Johnston pleaded guilty to murdering Kelly Wilkinson by soaking her in gasoline and setting her on fire while their young children watched in terror. He made this plea a few weeks before he was due to face trial.

Wilkinson was a mother of three and her charred body was discovered in the backyard of their Gold Coast family home on April 20, 2021. At the time, Johnston, then 34, reportedly violated a restraining order and murdered his wife of ten years in a horrifying spectacle. Their three children, aged between 2 and 9, were all present.

Johnston consequently caught on fire in the horrific process and tried to extinguish the flames by diving into a pool, according to the police report.

Responding officers found Johnston semi-conscious and suffering from severe burns merely two blocks from his home. Police recovered a plastic gasoline can, three knives, and a duffle bag containing rope and duct tape from the scene.

Following his hospitalization for hand and airway burns, Johnston was in a coma before being charged with murder upon regaining consciousness.

Members of Wilkinson’s family attended the Wednesday arraignment in Brisbane Supreme Court, witnessing Johnston’s guilty plea via court video link from jail. Johnston opted to remain silent when given the opportunity to make any statement before his sentencing.

Johnston, expected to return to court for his sentencing hearing on March 13, will remain in police custody. Meanwhile, Johnston and Wilkinson’s children are currently under their aunt’s care.