Murder victim's brother outraged at local judge - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Murder victim's brother outraged at local judge

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Marlene Johnson (Rowan County Sheriff's Office) Marlene Johnson (Rowan County Sheriff's Office)
Johnson in court on Wednesday Johnson in court on Wednesday
SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) -

Family members of a Rowan County woman murdered on July 23th are outraged over a bond set by a local judge. Marlene Johnson, 61, is charged with stabbing Shirley Goodnight Pierce to death at Pierce's Kannapolis home.

Authorities say Johnson thought Pierce, 62,  was having an affair with her husband. Johnson appeared before a Rowan County Judge Kevin Eddinger Wednesday afternoon. He granted her a bond of $450,000 for the first degree murder charge.

"Totally shocked. I mean with the stuff they have on her (Johnson), why would you let somebody out," said Pierce's brother, Tony Goodnight.

District Attorney Brandy Cook told Eddinger on Wednesday that Johnson had a history of stalking, assaulting, and harassing Pierce that went back to 2007, and she was particularly detailed in describing the killing of Pierce.

Johnson's defense attorneys says she is innocent and the case will be based on science.  James Davis argued that Johnson deserved bond because she had a good support system in place consisting of family and friends.

"If that was his own sister would he (Eddinger) have let her out on bond? That's my question and I'd like to hear an answer to that," Goodnight said.

WBTV took Goodnight's concerns to Eddinger, but an assistant said he would not speak about the case. Investigators have said that Pierce was stabbed multiple times and that it appeared she was stuck on the head.

"This appeared to be a very violent attack against Ms. Pierce," District Attorney Brandy Cook argued.  "This was done in the sanctity of her own home, late at night where we should all feel safe."

According to court records filed prior to the murder, Johnson believed that Pierce 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.

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.

On Thursday, authorities charged Johnson with burglary. That bond was set at $500,000. Add that to the $450,000 for the murder charge, and Johnson's total bond is $950,000.

"This situation concerns me," said Marcus Philemon, organizer of a non profit group in Charlotte that keeps tabs on offenders and judges.

"Because it is a capital case, a judicial official does not have to set any bond whatsoever," he said.

A court representative says Johnson will appear in court for the burglary charge on Monday, August 5th.

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