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Man on parole arrested in art student's murder

David Grier was free on parole for attempted murder charges in California at the time he allegedly killed Kierra Johnson, police say.
David Grier, 22, right, is charged with the death by strangulation of Kierra Johnson, 21, left. (Courtesy of Johnson family/PPD)

Police announced on Thursday the arrest of a man charged with strangling a young Philly art student to death late last year and leaving her body in Cobbs Creek. They say Kierra Johnson, 21, was killed by David Grier, 22, in a killing described as "sexual" in nature, although no further details about the motive were offered.

Philadelphia police said Grier and Johnson were acquaintances, but offered no further information about the sequence of events that led to Johnson being found strangled to death and dumped in the water of Cobbs Creek off of Spruce Street in West Philadelphia on Nov. 3. A passerby spotted Johnson's body in the water and alerted police. She had been reported missing by her mother a day prior.

Grier, of the 400 block of Edgemore Street, had reportedly been arrested in 2016 on attempted murder charges in California and was free on parole when he came to Philadelphia, according to police, although details were not immediately available about his arrest in California.

Now Grier, who was reportedly arrested on April 11, is charged with murder, robbery and related charges, police said.

Johnson, of the 7800 block of Elmwood Avenue in Southwest Philly, was studying visual communications at the Hussian School of Art in Center City, but also had a deep interest in nature conservation.

"Growing up being an inner city kid, art is what kept me on the right track since I felt I didn’t have much access to nature, but my environment has always fueled my illustrations which center around topics of race, body image, class and feminism," Johnson wrote in a 2015 blog post for a National Parks Service internship she was participating in. "Being an artist and growing up in a lower class home with a single parent, I have learned to use the resources I have to create bigger and better things and so I do not feel the need to separate my passion for art and my passion for conservation. Rather, I wish to integrate the two things if there is any way possible, as I feel it is a necessity to preserve the arts, history and nature for future generations to come, because all three of these things have played a huge roll in forming the person I am today and have done the same for many others."