Court records show murder suspect terrorized victim
The suspect in the violent slaying of a Kannapolis woman had attacked her previously because she suspected the victim was having an affair with her husband, a local textile executive, court records show.
Now, Marlene Postell Johnson, 61, is charged with murdering Shirley Goodnight Pierce.
Pierce, 62, was found dead at her Kannapolis home Tuesday morning. Investigators have not provided a motive, but court documents allege a series of violent attacks on the victim by Johnson.
Johnson’s husband is Ervin Johnson, president and CFO of Tuscarora Yarns. Pierce was Johnson’s executive assistant at the company’s Mount Pleasant headquarters.
Ervin Johnson and his wife are estranged, authorities said during a press conference Wednesday.
Chuck Reeves, Pierce’s fiance, called 911 at 9:42 a.m. Tuesday morning after going to Pierce’s home in Kannapolis and finding her in her bathtub, apparently stabbed to death.
Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said Pierce had multiple stab wounds, but he said a medical examiner would rule officially on the cause of death.
Sheriff’s deputies responded to the 911 call Tuesday and called in the department’s Criminal Investigation Division, which began collecting evidence and talking with relatives and neighbors.
Their investigation led to Marlene Johnson, who had long-running conflict with Pierce.
“There are things we need to look for to see why this escalated,” Auten said. He said it was obvious there were things that had been brewing that had not been settled.
Investigators obtained multiple search warrants for Johnson, her home on Lake Norman in Mooresville, and her car. The evidence found during those searches led them to charge Johnson with first-degree murder.
Auten said Johnson made no statements to investigators when arrested.
But court records reveal a troubled history between the two women. Since 2010, Pierce has filed eight separate complaints or applications for restraining orders against Johnson.
In January 2007, Pierce wrote in one complaint, Johnson approached as Pierce was hosting a fundraising event at a Charlotte hotel and slapped her because Johnson believed Pierce was having an affair with Ervin Johnson.
In later court papers, Pierce said Johnson contacted Tuscarora officials, including CEO Martin Foil, and told them “Pierce had an affair” with her husband.
In 2008, the two signed and had notarized an agreement in which Johnson promised not to contact Pierce, but Pierce said in later court filings that Johnson continued to harass her.
She also said Johnson had gotten Tuscarora keys and gone into her husband’s office and car, and cut the tires on his company car.
In 2010, Pierce got a temporary restraining order against Johnson, which was lifted after three months.
In February 2011, Concord Police charged Marlene Johnson with assault in connection with an altercation at the Parkway House Family Restaurant.
In a complaint filed three days after that incident, Pierce said Johnson assaulted her and two other women at the restaurant. The complaint said Johnson grabbed Pierce’s hair and hit her in the head from behind. Pierce said she was thrown to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked. Pierce was taken to the hospital the day she was attacked and later released.
Pierce said in the complaint that Johnson threatened her, saying “there would be more to come.” She also said Johnson had offered a waitress money to tell her when Johnson was there.
Johnson was convicted of assault, but her appeal is pending, authorities said.
A no contact order filed in June 2011 again said the assault occurred because Johnson believed Pierce was having an affair with her husband. The court document says there was no evidence to support the allegation.
The restraining order was in effect for one year, through June 2012. However, on Jan. 10, 2012, Johnson sent Pierce a friend request through social media networking site Facebook, violating the order.
In February 2012, a judge extended the no-contact order for a year. It expired last month.
In one of her complaints, Pierce said Johnson had “assaulted, terrorized, tormented, stalked and terrified me for no known reason.”
Johnson, who is being held without bond in the Rowan County jail, had a first court appearance Wednesday morning. A bond hearing is slated for next Wednesday.
Salisbury attorney James Davis is being retained. Davis also represented Johnson in the restraining order hearings.
The SBI is aiding the Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.