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Jury selection begins today for Marlene Johnson murder trial

Trial begins

Marlene Postell Johnson

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Jury selection began this morning for the murder trial of Marlene Johnson, who could face life in prison for the stabbing death of Shirley Goodnight Pierce. Johnson, 65, has been in the county jail since her 2013 arrest.

Jury selection could take anywhere from a few days to a week in a trial that could possibly last for two months. Rowan County investigators said Johnson thought Pierce, 62, was having an affair with her estranged husband, Ervin Johnson. Investigators have said Johnson was wrong.

Johnson broke into Pierce’s Kannapolis home where she’s accused of beating and stabbing her to death. Pierce was found dead in her bathtub by her fiance, Chuck Reeves. Prosecutors have said the attack on Pierce was so violent that the knife used broke off in her neck.

Shirley Pierce had filed several complaints and restraining orders against Johnson, who had assaulted her at a fundraiser and a restaurant. Pierce worked at Tuscarora Yarns, where Ervin Johnson was the chief financial officer and president. He has since retired.

After a December 2013 hearing where District Attorney Brandy Cook said she’d seek the death penalty, Johnson flung herself off the top bunk bed inside her jail cell. Detention Center officers responded to help Johnson. She was taken to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center where she was evaluated for her injuries and sent back to the jail. Officials said she had a gash to the back of her head and separated her shoulder.

Rowan County investigators discovered Johnson had surveillance pictures and area photos of Pierce’s home as well as some of her mail.

According to court records, forensic scientists are expected to be called to the witness stand as well as computer experts and friends and relatives of both Pierce and Johnson.

Johnson, who arrived in court prior to jurors, smiled at her family, and sat between her attorneys, Salisbury’s James Davis and Jay White of Concord. Superior Court Judge Stuart Albright has banned cameras in the courtroom, except for the first few minutes of Johnson’s arrival into the court room today.

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