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Rowan Detective: Marlene Johnson had dozens of injuries on her hands, arms, legs

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A day after Shirley Goodnight Pierce was found dead inside her Kannapolis home, the woman Rowan County investigators say beat and stabbed the 62-year-old was showing detectives dozens of cuts on her hands, arms and legs.

Marlene Postell Johnson, 65, showed her multiple injuries to Rowan County Detective Chad Moose, who said on the witness stand in court on Friday that he took pictures of each injury. Johnson was charged with first-degree murder and burglary on July 24, 2013, just 12 hours after Pierce was found.

Investigators have said Johnson wrongly thought Pierce was having an affair with her estranged husband, Ervin Johnson. Ervin, now retired, was the chief financial officer and president of Tuscarora Yarns where Pierce was the executive administrative assistant to the company’s chief executive officer, Martin Foil.

Pierce’s fiancé Chuck Reeves discovered her already dead inside a bathtub at her Evandale Road home. Reeves went to the home to have Pierce watch his two dogs while he went out of town on business. He’d spoken with Pierce the night before after she left work.

Court testimony from various people this week including Mary Preslar, who cleaned the building at Tuscarora Yarns, confirmed Pierce often worked late and usually parked her burgundy company van in the same spot at work. The night before she was discovered — July 22, 2013, Reeves said he’d last spoke with Pierce after she left work. He said her cellphone lost a signal sometime after and he tried to call her back, but never reached her.

Jurors heard from FBI special agent Michael Sutton, whose expertise is in cellphone analysis. He testified to the various general locations both Shirley Pierce and Marlene Johnson’s cellphones were used on July 22, 2013 and July 23, 2013.

Sutton noted that Johnson used her cellphone at or near her home the morning of July 22 and sometime before 9 a.m. it was detected by a cell tower in Charlotte and then back to her home between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sutton said later in the day just before 6:30 p.m. her cellphone was detected by a tower in the Kannapolis area and then Bethpage Grocery in Kannapolis, then an area near Tuscarora Yarns and then Marvin’s Fresh Farmhouse Restaurant in Mount Pleasant.

Shirley Pierce’s cellphone was detected by a cell tower on July 22 at Tuscarora Yarns, a Walgreens on South Cannon Boulevard in Kannapolis around 8:21 p.m. and then a 7-Eleven near her house where she bought a lottery ticket. It’s believed that she went home afterward, but Sutton said her phone wasn’t detected after that.

On July 23, Marlene Johnson’s cell phone was detected at her home between 8:59 a.m. and around 3 p.m. she went to her friend Tim Connor’s home in Huntersville. She went to Salisbury just before 6 p.m. until just before 10 p.m.

Detective Moose said he spoke to Johnson in Salisbury on July 23.

He said he seized her cellphone, purse and its contents. The detective said he noted a number of injuries to Johnson’s hands, arms and legs. He even noted there were french tips on her left hand, but none on her right hand. Jurors had just begun looking at those cuts and abrasions before the close of the day.

Johnson had cuts to her forearm, her bicep, elbow and multiple cuts to both knees. She had cuts on the palms of both hands and on several fingers on both the palm-side and back. She also has some slight swelling on one of her thumbs.

He said while at the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson appeared, bored, tired and sleepy. She also moved two interview chairs together so she could lie down. He said she wore sunglasses although it was around 10 p.m.

Moose said he also obtained DNA from Johnson.

Jurors also heard from former Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Scmitt, who analyzed an iPad that belonged to Johnson. She sent messages to someone detailing that she believed her husband paid for a getaway with him and Shirley Pierce. Rowan Detective Jason Owens said he pulled up Johnson’s driver’s license picture and served a search warrant.

The trial will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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