Search warrants: Marlene Johnson approached Huntersville officer, professing innocence

Investigators say Marlene Johnson approached a Huntersville Police officer the day Shirley Goodnight Pierce was found dead in her home, claiming she didn’t kill Pierce and had an alibi.

A series of search warrants filed Monday and issued by Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators detail the whereabouts of Johnson the day of the murder and the day before.


Pierce was found dead on the morning of July 23 at her Kannapolis home by her fiance, Chuck Reeves. Pierce was found in a bathtub and had been stabbed numerous times. Johnson was charged in her death about 12 hours later.

The warrants said it appeared Pierce had been beaten about the head and upper body. The warrants also said Pierce had defensive cuts and wounds to her hands, consistent with someone who fought back against an attacker. When Reeves arrived at the home the garage door was up, but the garage door to the house was locked. When Reeves entered the Evandale Road home he found Pierce and backed out of the home to call 911.

Search warrants said there were blood stains on the floor of the master bedroom and a substance similar to bleach also on the floor. A bloody footprint was found on a door mat leading to the garage door. Investigators believe the other blood stains that were found throughout the house belonged to the suspect.

The search warrants include interviews investigators had with Johnson’s friends and neighbors.

The warrants also say Johnson’s estranged husband, Ervin, had a restraining order against his wife. Ervin Johnson told a detective his wife had assaulted him in December 2008, cutting him on the hand, and he felt she was capable of more violence.

Pierce had also taken out a restraining order against Johnson, but it expired in June.

Ervin Johnson

Ervin Johnson is the president and CFO of Tuscarora Yarns. Pierce worked as Johnson’s executive assistant. Marlene Johnson believed her husband was having an affair with Pierce, although there has been no evidence to suggest the claims Johnson made were true.

Authorities say Johnson told them his wife was possessive and jealous. He said her violent behavior escalated in the last 10 years. Ervin Johnson said he recently sent his wife a text message saying he needed to move, change his phone number and live in a place where no one knew him. Marlene Johnson accused her husband of wanting to move in with Pierce. The warrant does not say when Johnson sent the text message to his wife.

Huntersville Police encounter

Warrants say Marlene Johnson identified herself to a Huntersville officer while driving in a Huntersville neighborhood. Johnson told the officer she’d heard from her sister and learned through news media that she was the suspect in a homicide. Johnson asked the officer if he was “trying to find her.” The officer noted scratches, nicks and red marks on Johnson’s hand, but didn’t know how the marks were made.

The officer said Johnson seemed extremely nervous. She told the officer she was in the Huntersville neighborhood tending to an elderly person. Johnson said she left the elderly person’s house after staying only a short time. The warrants say a friend and life coach, Timothy Connor, lives in the same Huntersville neighborhood. Connor told detectives he coached Johnson through some difficult times she’d had over the last couple of years. Connor said his relationship with Johnson was professional and one of friendship.

Johnson asked the 61-year-old Connor to retrieve items from her Mooresville home and take them to her attorney, James Davis. Connor delivered a laptop and iPad to the Salisbury attorney’s South Main Street office. Investigators seized the items from the Davis Law Firm on Friday in the belief that the items may have some relevance to the murder investigation. It’s not clear from the warrant when Johnson asked Connor to take the items to her attorney. Investigators searched Connor’s home, his vehicle and obtained a DNA swab and hair sample from him.

Friends, neighbors speak

A close friend of Shirley Pierce, whom investigators did not name, told them Pierce said the day before her death she was afraid Marlene Johnson was “going to do something” and that she’d been receiving hang-up phone calls from Johnson. Pierce had been receiving those calls since the restraining order she had taken against Johnson expired. Detectives spoke with Teresa Penland, a neighbor of Johnson’s who lived across the street. Penland said she’d had a previous conversation with Johnson who mentioned Ervin was having an affair with a woman Penland only knew as Shirley. Penland spoke with Johnson by cell phone the day Pierce was found. Johnson told Penland that Shirley had been killed and police were trying to “blame her for it.” Johnson told her neighbor she did not kill Pierce. Penland told investigators Johnson was home all day Monday but that she could not verify if Johnson was home all day Tuesday.

The warrants say there are conflicts in statements from Timothy Connor and Teresa Penland. The warrant said Connor told investigators he was with Johnson around 5 a.m. on Monday until Tuesday around noon. Connor also said when he and Johnson arrived at her Mooresville home Penland came to Johnson’s residence and said hello. However, Penland said she did not see her neighbor until Tuesday afternoon. Detectives again interviewed Connor, who recanted his earlier statement.

In his second interview, Connor told investigators Johnson asked him to lie saying if anything came up to say she returned to his house Tuesday. Connor said he noticed the cuts to Johnson’s hands Tuesday morning.

He also told detectives he delivered the items Johnson asked him to deliver to her attorney after her arrest.

Sheriff’s officials asked Connor if he knew Shirley Pierce and he said yes. Connor said he knew Pierce was the cause of the Johnson’s split. Connor claims Ervin Johnson admitted to an affair with Pierce, based on a text message Ervin Johnson sent to his estranged wife. Connor said he saw the text.

Marlene Johnson remains in the Rowan County Detention Center without a bond. A bond hearing is scheduled Wednesday.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.

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