A woman who killed her husband’s secretary in a fit of jealous rage has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Marlene Postell Johnson, 66, was convicted of first-degree murder on Wednesday in Salisbury, North Carolina for the 2013 slaying of 62-year-old Shirley Pierce, who was stabbed through the neck at home.
‘Ma’am, you will die in prison. That is my order,’ Judge Stuart Albright told Johnson as he sentenced her to life, shortly after she collapsed in court when the guilty verdict was read, WBTV reported.
Johnson’s estranged husband, Ervin Johnson, was the president and CFO of Tuscarora Yarns on the outskirts of Charlotte, where Pierce also worked as an executive administrative assistant.
The killer’s motive was revealed in court through threatening text messages she accidentally sent to a 15-year-old boy, thinking he was the victim Pierce.
Alex Norton, now 20, testified that on the night of July 21, 2013, he received a bizarre text from an unfamiliar number, the Salisbury Post reported.
‘Back off, you will not get Ervin over my dead body, you skanky w***e,’ the message read.
‘I think you have the wrong number,’ Norton testified he responded.
‘Is this Shirley Pierce?’ was the response.
‘No,’ replied Norton, to which he got the response ‘Sorry’.
Investigators said that the threatening texts had come from a cell phone registered to Marlene Johnson.
Less than 48 hours after the bizarre messages, on the morning of July 23, Pierce’s fiance Chuck Reeves found her body at her home on Evandale Road in Kannapolis.
She had been stabbed through the neck with such force that the handle of the knife had snapped off, leaving the blade impaled. The handle was never found.
Johnson was arrested within hours of the murder coming to light. She had a prior conviction for assaulting Pierce in 2011.
The court heard that Pierce had filed numerous restraining orders against Johnson. The final restraining order granted by the courts expired just weeks before the murder.
A search of Johnson’s home revealed that she had surveillance photos of Pierce, as well as aerial photos of Pierce’s home and workplace and bills that belonged to Pierce.
Blood DNA from the crime scene matched Johnson, investigators said.
Johnson’s defense attorneys, James Davis and Jay White, surprised observers by declining to offer an opening statement and submitting no evidence during trial.
Johnson did not testify in her own defense. Her lawyers did offer numerous objections to the prosecution, arguing that forensic evidence had been overlooked or improperly gathered.
A jury deliberated for about two hours before bringing back the guilty verdict.
After Johnson collapsed in court when the verdict was read, deputies rushed to her side and began to remove her from the room.
The judge ordered the deputies to halt, and for Johnson to remain and listen as he individually polled the jurors to confirm they were unanimous.
‘I disagree with the decision. I am innocent. I was never there. I would not hurt anybody. I would not have killed Shirley Pierce,’ Johnson told Judge Albright following the announcement of the verdict.
‘The DNA squarely contradicts everything that you just said,’ the judge replied.
He then sentenced her to life in prison without parole.
Pierce’s daughter, Tracy Brown, spoke out in court prior to sentencing, directly addressing Johnson.
‘As a Christian I’m supposed to be forgiving,’ Brown said.
‘But I could never forgive you for what you did, and if that keeps me from going to heaven, then I’ll meet you in hell.’