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Murder Victim Michelle Johnson Was a Sunny, Sweet Presence at Tortilla Press

Staff at the Collingswood restaurant were shocked to learn about the young woman's death in an apparent murder-suicide in Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon.

Friends of Collingswood resident Michelle Johnson were stunned today to learn that the sunny, upbeat and hard-working young woman had been found dead Wednesday in Philadelphia, .

Staff at the today confirmed that the 21-year-old, known as "Shelley," was a long-time member of the restaurant family, having worked her way up from hostess/buser to server.

Owner Mark Smith was too shaken to say much after hearing the news. Johnson had worked for him “for years,” he said.

“I don’t know how I’m going to tell the staff,” Smith said.

Restaurant manager Evan Weissman said Johnson was “a fun girl, a sweet girl and very bright.”

One server at the restaurant, who did not wish to be identified by name, broke down upon hearing the news that Johnson, whom she called her best friend, had been killed.

“She was beautiful. She was a really, really strong person,” the server said. “She and I bonded over the fact that we lived on our own, we’re both young and we don’t have people supporting us.”

That server described Johnson as having escaped a rough Virginia neighborhood where she had few close friends. She said Johnson’s mother had been out of the picture since her childhood, and that Johnson had been raised mostly by her father, with whom she was close.

Johnson was “girly” and “beautiful;” the two enjoyed pedicures, shopping and day trips to Atlantic City. She said Johnson’s dream was to own her own restaurant someday, and that “she was a shark when it came to her money” in service of that dream.

Philadelphia police confirmed to Patch that Johnson was found in a Gateway Drive apartment belonging to California native Paul Aldapa, 22. Police believe Aldapa shot Johnson once in the head before turning the gun on himself. A note was found at the scene**, the contents of which were undisclosed.

Aldapa was a Coast Guard petty officer who had been dating Johnson “officially” for a few months, the server said.

The couple met online last September, according to the server, who described Aldapa as “controlling,” “jealous” and “possessive.”

“She said a couple weeks ago that she thought she wasn’t meant to be in a relationship because he was smothering her,” the server said.

“Then all of a sudden he was a saint, paying for her gas, buying her an E-ZPass to see him easily."

She stressed that Johnson was never a victim of abuse, but that Johnson had insisted that Aldapa seek anger management counseling, which she said he was doing, or they couldn't continue the relationship.

No arrangements have been confirmed for Johnson’s memorial. Philadelphia police confirmed that the families of both Johnson and Aldapa had been notified.

**CORRECTION: Contrary to initial reports that a note was found at the scene, a source close to the investigation confirmed to Patch that this is incorrect.

If you knew Michelle Johnson or Paul Aldapa and would like to share memories of them, please post them in the Comments section below, or email Matt Skoufalos at matt.skoufalos@patch.com.

cliff July 20, 2012 at 12:10 PM
My true friend who excepted me 4 who I was n not my past, u always put a smile on my face, I going to miss r icecoffee breaks n having u make sure my guacamole is perfect.... :) R.I.P princess
Natasha Tati Reyes July 20, 2012 at 03:01 PM
as my heart goes out to ms.johnsons family u cannot say i knew her... but i did however know paul and this article disgusts me he was far from a monster as this paper tries to put out... he was an amazing man and ive known him for a long time and this was not even in his nature. He was not this aggresive angry monster who would do something like this... im appalled
Fred E. July 20, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Idk ms Johnson either but Paul was far from Wut this article is trying. To make him out to b. obviously there was an issue but Paul wus definitely a loving and caring person. RIP to both victims and pray for the families. And get your facts straight from both sides before you spread lies and one sided stories matt skoufalos
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Fred and Natasha, if you have other perspectives on Mr. Aldapa, please reach out to me. My e-mail address is clearly listed in the article, and I would be happy to report something from someone who knew of him personally. I know neither him nor Ms. Johnson, but I was not able to reach any of Mr. Aldapa's colleagues at the Coast Guard to provide any information about him or his background. The quotations here are from a close and grieving friend of the victim, who Mr. Aldapa is believed by police to have murdered. They are not taken to be the personal feelings of either myself or of our website.
D W July 20, 2012 at 08:15 PM
This article is VERY one sided. How dare the reporter just go with information from one source. If you can't verify or get two sides, don't put it on there. I am saddened for both families in this tragedy.
GMZ July 20, 2012 at 08:49 PM
My thoughts and prayers go out ot both families. Paul was far from what this article portrays him to be. I was a friend and coworker of Paul's. I still cannot comprehend what could cause such a tragedy. I know for a fact there was no note found at the scene, that is incorrectly reported. I have never known Paul to also be the "smothering" type, nor have anger issues.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 09:20 PM
GMZ, thanks for your thoughts. The detail about a note being found at the scene comes from the Philadelphia police, to whom I spoke yesterday. Again, for those who knew Paul and would like to share their memories of him, please send me an e-mail so that we can follow the story.
Natasha Tati Reyes July 20, 2012 at 11:25 PM
well ill deff email u matt he was a great friend of mine... tgis was a shock to us all and he was far from the monster they tried to put him out to be...
GMZ July 21, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Philly.com reported there was a note. Daily new paper addition said there was no note. Phila Police Homicide stated there was no note. Sounds lik a misprint from philly.com.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) July 21, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Again, GMZ, I spoke personally with the PIO for Philadelphia Police and was told that the contents of any note would not be released, not that there was no note. My reporting on this is first-hand. Again, I invite you to contact me if you have more recent information on the situation. We are interested in accuracy.
Robert Pietropaula July 21, 2012 at 03:07 AM
I would like to talk to u about. Contact me at rpietropaula2000@yahoo.com
Kevin July 21, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Please don't come running to his defense as a great guy. He may have been at some time, but let's not portray him as a puppy rescuer, or someone who helped elderly women across the street. If he killed only himself, great, keep those memories that you have of him alive. Once you take someone else's life, you are a monstrous murderer. Spare me the kind thoughts on Aldapa.
a friend July 21, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Turn the tables for a.minute if it was the other way around would it make your grief any less would it hurt her Loved ones less what happened was wrong but no one was there no one will ever know with certainty way this happened what he has Done is not a good deed but everything he did before was people who Knew him Knew a beautiful soul kind considerate gentle not a monster he has left us in a devastating way and caused pain to a very many people but it will not make his family and friends love him any less. RIP to two beautiful people!
Alexis Celino July 21, 2012 at 02:53 PM
I was one of Michelles best friends. Look everybody grieves in different ways. regardless of what happened two of our friends are gone and we cannot change that. Everyone wants someone to be angry at but the fact is that you cant change what happened. They arent coming back. I am saying this even as Michelles friend. Dont you guys understand that the reporter was just doing his job. Nobody wants to believe that Paul could be capable of what he did but it happened. I knew Paul and though I hate what he did to my best friend I still understand that he has family and friends that he left behind. My heart goes out to everyone grieving (both parties) and I know Shelly and even Paul wouldnt want us to take sides and fight. Everyone grieves in different ways so regardless of what was said I do believe there are two sides to every story but it is a fact that he did what he did and my Shelly is never coming back. So please as horrible as it is let everyone grieve in their own way.
Tony Aldapa July 21, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Alexis, thank you for what you wrote. None of us were there to know exactly what happened so all we can do is speculate. It's easy to judge people based on a situation and then speak about them negatively behind the shield of cyberspace, and that's why I want to thank you for showing some maturity and understanding that even though this has happened its not that Paul was a motherless monster. He has a family, and a mother, that is not taking this very well. So please everyone keep your negative thoughts to yourself and think about how your own mother would feel being put into this situation.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) July 21, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Please, I know there is a lot of emotion around this. I just had to delete some comments because people are talking about meeting up to fight. That's not what this space is for. Let's not let violence beget violence.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) July 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Cody, I hear where you're coming from. Do me a favor please and say the same thing with fewer obscenities. I don't want to delete your comments, but we've got to try to keep the site accessible to everybody.
Jeff Alden July 21, 2012 at 06:09 PM
This is Michelle's older brother from Cincinnati. Thanks Alexis and Tony for the comments. Everyone needs to come together in a time like this. Nothing is going to change what happened. No need to make this tradgedy worse than it already is. My thoughts and prayers go out to both families. Michelle, you were a beautiful person inside and out. Love you Sis.
Cody Steven Mark July 21, 2012 at 06:35 PM
I knew Paul for 3 years we chilled just about every week i want everybody to know that he is not a bad person he did care about her. People make mistakes and act on impulse without thinking. This Has not been easy for me at all. So dnt talk trash about people you dont really know because you dnt know what kind of people they were.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) July 21, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Thanks, Cody.
John Storgion July 22, 2012 at 02:54 AM
To Ronda, Michele's Mother From Jimmy,Terry,John,and all who knew Ronda at U.S. CHILI our deepest sympathy and condolenses.for your loss. May her memory be eternal.
Sydney Dange July 22, 2012 at 07:30 AM
Completely agree here. Couldnt have said it better. Wanna kill yourself? Have fun. Leave a sweet girl out of it you monster.
brendan dugan July 22, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Shelly....I'll miss opening the restaurant with you and watching you make you variety of dips for your chips, it was absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. You were nothing short of being one of the nicest and true hearted people I have met in my life. This did NOT deserve to happen to ANYONE let alone, least of all YOU! You deserved to live your life to the fullest without this evil taking it away. And that is the truth, all in all, end of discussion. I'll miss you as everone will. I hope we can keep your memory alive to the best we can, as we know you would have done for us. Work will never, ever, be the same. Ever.
Nicole Hairstonn July 25, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Michelle was my sister, she dated my brother for 8years, he fell from a 6 story building 2years ago after his recovery he moved to Virginia where she is from, the decided to be close friends because of their distance, my brother and our family are grieving because of this news we love and will truly miss you baby girl, my brother states he love you and he always will as he tell you everyday, love you baby
Jon July 26, 2012 at 02:44 PM
WHY is this idiot being memorialized like this...HE MURDERED a beautiful young woman and then killed himself. His parenta must be so proud! And I hear they want the cat back that he gave to Michelle...they went so far as to call the person who took the cat after he MURDERED Michelle....These are NOT good people...STOP acting like this guy was a saint....and to his partents..shame on you~
Diane August 26, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Your brother brutalized and beat the crap out of Shelly everyday when they dated. I've seen the pictures from the police report she filed against him. Please don't act like they were close friends still. She had a restraining order against him. You dishonor her memory by making it sound like someone who destroyed years of her life was a memorable part of her.
Katie September 10, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Jon, obviously you know nothing and have your facts wrong cause If you knew anything you would know where the cat is and you don't cause your fake like the rest!
rajack November 25, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Sad I don't care how nice this guy was before once you kill you are nothing but a monster I know he is burning in hell is the typical men the he say he love a women if you really love somebody you don't kill that person but is selfishness make him took a beautiful girl I DONT FEEL sorry for him. I dare his friends to say he was a good person if he was so good person he would it never took a life
rajack November 25, 2012 at 10:44 AM
I agree john all this losers the try to make him look like a poor victim I am surprise how some women's try to make him look like he was the best person ever I am a men I would it never kill the women the I love he is burning in hell only god have the right to do that he is a disgrace for the people we serve our country I am a coast guard and the men and women the serve in the coast guard we are very sorry the somebody like this guy make us look bad
Addie MacDonald February 06, 2013 at 01:32 AM
Well he did "do something like this" monstrous, aggressive, angry, SELFISH act. Sounds like an aggressive, angry monster to me.

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