In April 1989, 21-year-old college student; Donyelle Johnson went missing after she left home for school. Donyelle vanished more than thirty years ago, and she hasn’t been found since. However, Cleveland Hill, a successful businessman who passed away in 2018, was alleged to be connected to her disappearance and that of 2 other women. Although there are indicators Hill could be behind Donyelle’s disappearance, it was never formally established.
The Truth About Donyelle Johnson And Her Disappearance
Donyelle was born to her parents, Mack and Juanita Johnson in Largo in Pinellas County, Florida, on November 14, 1967. Not much is known about her early life as she only came to the spotlight after her strange disappearance on April 4, 1989, after leaving her family’s home in Clearwater, Florida, to go to St. Petersburg Junior College.
Unfortunately, she never showed up for class that day or even made it to the school. Bothered by this development, her parents reported the issue to the police on April 6, 1989. On that same day, they got a letter that purportedly said where their daughter was.
According to the letter, Donyelle relocated to Orlando in an attempt to ‘figure herself out’ and was involved in drug use. Experts in handwriting analysis verified that the document, which was written in the first person, was indeed written by Donyelle.
Donyelle Johnson’s Vehicle was Found Shortly After She Went Missing
When the police started looking for Donyelle, they found her car parked behind a Hardee’s restaurant in Largo, between Belcher Road and East Bay Drive. The police said the car was reported to a towing company by an anonymous caller going by the name ‘Johnny Bailey.’
The towing company was notified by the caller that the vehicle required towing due to technical difficulties. After close examination, the 1987 Nissan Pulsar’s operator discovered that the only issue with the vehicle was a loose battery connection which may have been deliberately done. Moreover, detectives couldn’t figure out how the supposed ‘Johnny Bailey’ knew the car needed to be towed because it supposedly had problems.
Cleveland Hill Jr. has been Linked to Donyelle’s Mysterious Disappearance
In 1989, Donyelle’s parents reported to the police that they were aware that their twenty-one-year-old daughter was having an affair with a forty-one-year-old man named Cleveland Hill Jr. They also said that he was Cleveland was in the habit of lavishing their daughter with cash and gift items. Moreover, he was the one who bought her the car she was driving at the time she went missing.
Upon discovering the relationship, Donyelle’s father, Mack, authorized her to return all of the presents, including the car. Days before his daughter’s disappearance, Mack also disclosed to the detectives that he and Cleveland had engaged in a physical altercation. He asserted that Donyelle wished to quit her relationship with Hill but he kept showing up in their house uninvited and this often led to physical altercation between them.
Cleveland Hill allegedly told Donyelle’s family that they would never see their daughter again
Donyelle’s brother, Mack Johnson III, had said on one of the occasions when their father and Cleveland had a battle of words, Cleveland gave a disturbing reply saying Well, you better enjoy your daughter because this may be the last time you see her.
Additionally, according to Donyelle’s family, Cleveland had threatened her in the past when she tried to break up with him, saying he could make people disappear. Upon investigating Cleveland’s past, the police discovered that he had a controversial history.
Meanwhile, Cleveland’s daughter, Tenesia Mbow, alleged that her father practiced black magic and he was also an adulterer, felon, drug trafficker, and suspected murderer. Growing up, she said that she remembered seeing him drive his truck, which had the words ‘Black Magic’ etched on it. She even claimed that he had abducted his wife and brought her to a cottage in the Georgian woods where he worshipped the devil.
3 women connected to Cleveland had also gone missing
Retha Hiers (43), Donyelle (38), and Margaret Dash (38), three missing women, were among Cleveland’s at least seven extramarital affairs. On June 14, 1974, Margaret disappeared while leaving her Clearwater home to buy medication for a sick relative. Meanwhile, in 1982, three days after Christmas, Retha disappeared too. Similar to Donyelle’s, both of the women’s cars had vanished and been discovered abandoned. Four women have also filed paternity cases against Cleveland, according to court records.
Although Cleveland had always insisted he was not romantically engaged with any of them and had nothing to do with their disappearances, the investigators had suspicions about him in all three cases.
In the meantime, Betty Jean, Cleveland’s wife, testified that she was beaten and mistreated by him daily up to her escape to her parents’ house in February 1968.
After showing up four days later, Cleveland pulled a gun and shot his mother-in-law, Josephine Hillmon, four times, then turned the gun on Betty, hitting her in the back of the head and the mouth. The two women miraculously survived, and Hill was charged with two counts of attempted murder. Cleveland was nevertheless given a five-year probationary term after a jury convicted him guilty of assault. After going against his probation, he was sentenced to prison and released on parole in 1971. Two weeks following his release, Betty was compelled to remarry him.
It was never established that Donyelle disappeared because of Cleveland
2018 saw Cleveland’s death at the age of 70. Till his death, neither Donyelle’s nor the three two women’s disappearances were ever directly tied to him. Nevertheless, in each of the three incidents, he continued to be the prime suspect. Meanwhile, in July 2022, the authorities dug up a property at 1201 Gooden Crossing in Largo, hoping to find something connecting to the disappearance of the 3 women, but they discovered nothing.