The Death of Debbie Glatzel Explained

By Kieran Burt
Published: October 17, 2023 (Last updated: October 26, 2023)
The Death of Debbie Glatzel Explained

Netflix‘s new documentary The Devil on Trial tells the story of the Glatzel family and demonic possession being used as a defense for murder. Arne Johnson stood accused of murdering his landlord Alan Bono, and his defense was that he was possessed by the devil at the time. In support of this, he would cite the alleged possession of the then 11-year-old David Glatzel, brother of his fiancée Debbie Glatzel, whose death occurred fairly recently in 2021.

The court threw out this defense however, they would later only convict Arne of first-degree manslaughter and sentence him to jail. Throughout all of this, Debbie stood by him. She testified in his favor and even got married to Arne while he was in prison. She remained convinced that both her brother David and husband Arne were possessed until she died in 2021.

Who is Debbie Glatzel?

Deborah “Debbie” Glatzel was 26 when her younger brother, David, allegedly became possessed by the devil in 1980. David claims that he became possessed when he was helping his sister move house so that she could live with Arne Johnson. She supported her family throughout David’s episodes, where he would swear at his family, growl, and laugh manically. When Arne allegedly sacrificed himself during David’s exorcism, the devil would transfer itself into him.

Arne Johson would stab Alan Bono, his landlord, in 1981. He claimed that he did this while under the influence of the devil, which meant that in his eyes he wasn’t guilty. The court threw out this defense, and Arne was convicted of first-degree manslaughter, and sentenced to prison. Debbie would stand by Arne throughout and even married him while he was in prison.

When the family became split over whether David and Arne were really possessed, Debbie and Arne remained committed to the idea that they both were. Debbie Glatzel believed this until her death in 2021.

How did Debbie Glatzel die?

Debbie died in 2021 of an unspecified form of cancer. This was also the same year that the film The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It came out, which was based on the story of David and Arne’s alleged possession. She was involved in the making of the movie prior to her death, so it’s safe to say that she supported the final product when it was released.

When talking about the film, director Michael Chaves said, “This is the story of Arne and also his girlfriend who became his wife, Debbie Glatzel.”

He added, “She was there during the exorcism, she was there at the murder, and she testified for him, and she believed. She stood by that, and they’ve been married the rest of her life. She actually just passed away from cancer.

Did Debbie Glatzel and Arne Johnson have children?

Debbie and Arne would go on to have two children together. Their love for each other remained a constant throughout Arne’s five years in prison, with the pair getting married to each other while Arne was still inside.

The couple has kept their children away from the public eye, likely not wanting them involved with the possession story.

Who was Debbie Glatzel’s brother David?

Debbie’s brother David was allegedly possessed by a demon in 1980 was he was 11 years old when he was helping her move house. David claimed that he saw the devil and that it was coming for his soul. He swore at his parents, laughed manically, and said Jesus would go to hell.  This resulted in demon experts and the church getting involved with the family to help them get rid of the spirit. The church performed an exorcism on David, where the spirit allegedly transferred to Arne.

Since then, David has lived his life quietly in America, keeping himself busy. His older brother Carl said in 2021 that he had “moved on” from his childhood issues.


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