Warrants: Pierce feared harm from Johnson the day before the mur - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Warrants: Pierce feared harm from Johnson the day before the murder

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Marlene Johnson (Rowan County Sheriff's Office) Marlene Johnson (Rowan County Sheriff's Office)
SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) -

Search warrants pertaining to the murder of Shirley Pierce, 62, and the arrest of Marlene Johnson, 61, for the crime, have now been released by the Rowan County Clerk of Court's Office.

The warrants show what detectives were looking for, and what they say they found in investigating this case that shocked the local community. In the warrants it is stated that Johnson actually approached police to tell her that she did not kill Pierce and that she had an alibi. Pierce's body was found in the bathtub of her Kannapolis home last Tuesday by her fiance. Within hours deputies had arrested Johnson. 

According to court records filed prior to the murder, Johnson believed that Pierce had had an affair with Johnson's husband, Ervin Johnson, an executive at the textile company where Pierce worked. Those records showed a history of trouble between the women dating back to 2007. Those records also state that no evidence of an affair could be found.

Pierce had a restraining order taken out against Johnson that expired on June 13, just a few weeks before she was murdered. WBTV obtained the search warrants on Monday. Below are highlights from each warrant.

Johnson was located and arrested on the same day of the murder. Investigators found her at the office of her attorney at the Davis Law Firm. Johnson was searched and detectives "observed numerous cuts and scratches on Marlene Johnson's hands, fingers, arms, and legs." The warrant states that the wounds " appeared to be fresh and less than a day old and appeared consistent with injuries that would be sustained in a violent assault involving an edged weapon." At that point Johnson was arrested and charged with the murder of Shirley Pierce.

The warrants also provide the time line of the ongoing investigation. Pierce's body was found at 117 Evandale road in Kannapolis on July 23. Pierce's fiance had come to the house and could not get Pierce to come to the door, nor could he hear any sound from inside. The garage door was up and the door was locked, according to the warrant. The fiance, Chuck Reeves, used a hidden key to get inside the house.Once inside, Reeves found Pierce's body in the tub in the master bedroom bathroom. At that point Reeves "backed out and called 911 and waited until deputies arrived."

Lt. Chad Moose with the Rowan Sheriff's Office began coordinating the investigation. In the warrant it states that "Ms. Pierce had suffered multiple stab wounds and also appeared to have been beaten about the head and body." The floor of the bedroom contained "deep reddish brown stains that appeared to be blood," and there appeared to be "a cleaning agent similar to bleach" poured onto these stains.  A purse was found dumped out on the bed, as well as a jewelry box that had been "dumped on the floor of the living room."

A bloody footprint was found on a door mat that led to the garage. Other blood stains were found in the hallway and on the floor of the garage. At this point it was discovered by investigators that Marlene Johnson was a "person that Shirley Pierce had problems with." 

A "close friend of Pierce" told investigators that she spoke to Pierce the day before the murder and that Pierce told her that she was afraid that Marlene Johnson was "going to do something and told this friend that she had received hang up phone calls from Marlene."

Johnson's husband, Ervin Johnson, contacted investigators, describing his estranged relationship with his wife, and saying that "Ms. Johnson accused him of having an affair with Shirley Pierce and was very upset about it." He described his wife's behavior as "becoming more violent and confrontational over the last 10 years." Ervin Johnson also stated that his wife "assaulted him with a knife in December 2008."

Ervin Johnson had taken out a restraining order against Marlene Johnson.

Later, also on Tuesday, a Huntersville Police Officer, S.D. Whalen, told the SBI that he had been approached by Marlene Johnson at around 3:43 pm on Cambridge Grove Drive in Huntersville.

According to the warrant, Johnson told Officer Whalen that "she heard from her sister and the news media that she was a suspect in a homicide. Johnson said she didn't do it and had an alibi.  Johnson asked Whalen if he was trying to find her. Whalen observed on Johnson's hands, nicks, red marks, and /or scratches." Whalen also said that Johnson was acting "extremely nervous."  The warrant points out that at that time, no information about Marlene Johnson had been released to any news media outlets. A search warrant was also issued for a search of Marlene Johnson's home 136 Lilac Mist Loop in Mooresville.  The house was searched, along with a 2012 Hyundai Genesis.

On Friday a warrant was taken out to search the Davis Law Firm, 215 N. Main Street. That warrant was signed by Judge Erwin Spainhour, then served at the firm with the search undertaken just after 6:00 pm. According to the warrant, investigators were there to seize "any property or documents" belonging to Marlene Postell Johnson. 

Investigators believed that a friend of Johnson's,  Timothy James Connor, may have delivered the items to the Davis firm. The firm was searched based on a conversation between investigators and Connor.  

Connor told investigators that he was "friends with Johnson, who he had met during a book signing two years earlier."  Connor said that his relationship with Johnson was "professional." Connor described himself as a "professional coach" and said that "he had coached Johnson through some of the difficult times (emotionally) she had over the last couple years."

Connor told investigators that he spent the day with Johnson on 7/22, and that he saw her again on the morning of 7/23 at 8:00 am when they met for a meal at Cracker Barrel in Mooresville.  Connor said that Johnson told him that "if anything comes up to say that she stayed at his house" until 12 or 12:30 am and that they returned to her house and spent the night.  Connor told detectives that this story was not true and said that he noticed small cuts on Johnson's fingers during the Tuesday morning meeting. 

Connor said that later in the day Johnson told him to go to her house and get her laptop and iPad and deliver it to the Davis office.  Those items were seized from the office on Friday. Earlier in the week detectives searched the home and car of Connor which is the Cambridge Grove Drive address in Huntersville where Johnson had the conversation with police. 

Among the things taken from that home included paperwork pertaining to Marlene Johnson from an office desk, 8 thumb drives, a computer CPU, three kitchen knives, and DNA swabs; one from Connor, one from the driver's door handle of a car, and one from the driver door kick plate.

Among items seized by investigators from the home of Pierce are cuttings of the reddish brown stains found on the floor of the bedroom. 

Other items, including bank records, cellphone records, photographs, cameras, and mail were also put into evidence.

Johnson remains in jail without bond. She is scheduled for a bond hearing on Wednesday.

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