2 Men exonerated, new suspect connected to another murder case in Gastonia

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The release of two men who spent 30 years in jail for a crime they didn't commit is hitting home for a family near Charlotte.

Leon Brown and Henry McCollum were released from prison Wednesday.  They were wrongly convicted of raping and killing a 11-year-old girl in Robeson County in 1983.
Lawyers said DNA evidence found at the scene was linked to another man, Roscoe Artis. Artis was once suspected of killing a woman in Gastonia. The victim's family wants some sort of confirmation he did it.

Bernice Moss was a 30-year-old mother in 1980.  Her niece, Bridget Johnson remembers that day in August when her mom's sister's body was found in Gastonia.

"When she hung up the phone with the police she was standing right there, 'I know that's my sister, I know that's my sister.'  She said, 'I know it is.'  Everybody heard her screaming," said Bridget Johnson.

Johnie Mae Johnson said that horror came rushing back this week when she heard Roscoe Artis' DNA was found at another murder scene from 1983 that exonerated two men.
"I told my daughter that's the man that killed my sister," said Johnie Mae Johnson.

Johnie Mae said after Bernice was found police investigated but Artis was never found in Gastonia.

"We're sure that this man did it because the detectives came out here during that time a lot looking for him," said Johnie Mae Johnson.

Court records show, there was an arrest warrant for Artis but the DA dismissed the case in 1990 when Artis was in a Robeson County jail on another murder conviction.

"Too many people have been hurt by this one man that's not on death row and why?" said Johnie Mae Johnson.

Johnie Mae said her sister's body was discovered in woods where there is now a Walmart.  Things may change but not their desire for justice.

"That was the only sister I had," said Johnie Mae Johnson.
"Then I had an aunt that say you all are stirring up old wounds," said Bridget Johnson, "The wounds have never been closed.  That's the whole thing about it. They've never been closed because justice has never been done."

But they realize justice might not come from the courts in their case.

"If he would admit to doing it we will know for sure that he was the one committed her murder," said Johnie Mae Johnson.
Why Artis' murder case was dismissed in Gaston County is not clear.  The person who made that decision has retired and a court clerk said after a case is dismissed the files are destroyed.

The Johnson family says they want Artis tried for Bernice Moss's 1980 murder or the 1983 murder of the 11-year-old girl.

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