Mississippi Man Charged With Beating Nursing Student Girlfriend to Death a Week After Tennessee Officials Let Him Out on Bond

Police in Mississippi tracked down a man Wednesday and arrested him for brutally killing his girlfriend and leaving her body in her car in a Gulfport cemetery.

Officials in Tennessee had recently released Bricen John Rivers, 23, from jail on bond after he was charged with especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated stalking, and coercion of a witness while he and Lauren Johansen, 22, were vacationing in Nashville, WLOX reported.

Rivers was arrested in December 2023 after Johansen’s family called Nashville dispatchers and told them she had called screaming, afraid Rivers was going to kill her.

Police found the vehicle and said they could hear Johansen banging from inside trying to escape. She was able to do so as officers arrived, but Rivers was reaching for a gun in the back seat as she did so. Officers stopped him and took him into custody.

The Davidson County Sheriff’s Department released him from custody on June 24 after a judge lowered his bond from $250,000 to $150,000.

Family members reported Johansen missing from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, — where she was working on a nursing degree from the University of Southern Mississippi — on Wednesday. At about 3 p.m., officials found her car in the Wolf River Cemetery in Gulfport, about 70 miles from Hattiesburg. They saw Rivers running from the vehicle as they approached and found Johansen’s body wrapped in a sheet inside.

The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by Biloxi Police, the Mississippi Highway Patrol, and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, launched a search with with K9 units, drones, and helicopters.

Eventually, Gulfport police, D’Iberville police, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, and Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries assisted in the search.

Johansen’s father, Lance Johansen, told WLOX that officials in Nashville did not tell the family Rivers had been released from jail and did not fit him with a GPS monitor, as they were supposed to do.

“They let him out and didn’t tell us, and didn’t put the ankle monitor on him. They just let him walk out of jail,” Johansen said.

Johansen said the district attorney’s office left a voicemail a week after Rivers was set loose.

Johansen said he was in Gulfport helping look for his daughter’s car after its OnStar pinged in the coastal town, although it took some effort to get police to search for it.

“I knew she was dead,” he said. “When we got there, her car was in the middle of the cemetery and she was in the back of the car wrapped up in sheets and trash bags. She was basically beaten to death. Her face was smashed in, her head was smashed in, she was brutally beaten to the point she couldn’t see out of either eye when she finally died and there was multiple holes in her head. I helped the coroner lift her body out of the car. It was just mutilated.”

Johansen said the criminal justice system in Nashville “failed my daughter and my family.”

Rivers has now been charged with first degree murder and is being held on a $1 million bond.

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