A mistaken love affair is sending a North Carolina woman to prison for life. According to WSOCTV, 46-year-old Marlene Johnson was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2013 stabbing death of 62-year-old Shirley Pierce. Johnson believed that Pierce was having an affair with her estranged husband, which was not true.
“I disagree with the jury’s decision,” she said in court, per WBTV. “I am innocent. I was never there. I would never hurt anybody. I would not have killed Shirley Pierce.”
As People reports, the judge disagreed with this assertion and cited DNA evidence from the murder scene as tying Johnson to the killing. “Ma’am, you will die in prison. That is my order.”
“We know who did this. We know why she did this. We know how she did this,” shared Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook in closing arguments on Tuesday, adding: "We hope that this guilty verdict and resulting life sentence will provide some sense of closure for Shirley Pierce's family, friends, and loved ones.
Pierce was found stabbed to death inside her Kannapolis home in July 23, 2013. Johnson reportedly killed her, thinking that the secretary was having an affair with her estranged husband Ervin Johnson. The victim and Johnson worked together at Tuscarora Yarns in Mount Pleasant.
Johnson stabbed the victim in the neck in what was described as a violent, painful death. Frensic pathologist Dr. Clay Nichols shared that Pierce would have been in pain for about three to five minutes before dying.
Johnson collapsed upon hearing the verdict. Some of the victim's family spoke out, sharing they were unable to forgive her. "As a Christian I'm supposed to be forgiving," the victim's daughter, Tracy 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."
Added Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten, “You’re thankful that this will be another step for the family of the victim in closure for them and they can get on healing. Certainly they’ll never get over losing a loved one like Shirley, but hopefully this is another step in that right direction for that family.”
Johnson's attorneys plan on appealing the conviction.
[Photo: Rowan County Detention Center, Facebook]