A Murder Years in the Making?


by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Billy Carrier
by Photographer Adam Stevens

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. - 61-year-old Marlene Johnson is behind bars, with no bond.  Rowan County Sheriff's Deputies arrested her and charged her with killing 62-year-old Shirley Pierce at Pierce's Kannapolis home.

Pierce's fiance found her dead Tuesday morning in the bathroom.  The sheriff says she was stabbed more than once.  Our cameras captured no signs of forced entry into the home.  Sheriff Kevin Auten says, "We gotta go back to the home, the crime scene is still secure, there are things we need to look for to see why this escalated."

The victim and the suspect had a long history.  Pierce worked with Johnson's husband at Tuscarora Yarns.  Court documents show Johnson thought the two were having an affair, though there was "no evidence" of that.  Johnson was found guilty of assaulting Pierce in 2011 outside a Cabarrus County restaurant; pulling her hair, shoving her to the ground and repeatedly kicking her.  Court documents shows Johnson had also assaulted Pierce in 2008.  Pierce ultimately got a restraining order.

Auten says, "We gotta do some digging because obviously there's a track record here we've got to get to the bottom of."

Outside the victim's home, Laura Hunter remembered the woman who liked to garden and ride her motorcycle.  She says, "Shirley was a good neighbor."  Hunter says some residents recall hearing a noise around 4:30 Tuesday morning.  She also says in the 20 some years they lived near each other, Pierce never mentioned Johnson.  She says, "I think people get things in their head and just blow it out of proportion and like I said, Shirley's so attractive, you know, she looks way younger."

Auten says Marlene Johnson made no statement when she was arrested. She does have an attorney.  Detectives are waiting for results from Pierce's autopsy.

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