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A North Carolina woman was sentenced to life behind bars after killing the woman she mistakenly believed was having an affair with her husband.

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Sixty-six-year-old Marlene Johnson flew into a jealous rage over estranged husband Ervin Johnson’s colleague, Shirley Pierce, 62, before stabbing her to death in 2013. Pierce was the executive assistant to the CEO of Tuscarora Yarns, a North Carolina company where Ervin Johnson served as the chief financial officer and president. She was found dead in her home after a period of not being heard from by her fiancé, Chuck Reeves. A medical examiner confirmed that her jugular had been severed in addition to the several cuts on her arms and face, showing that she’d attempted to fight off her killer, the Salisbury Post reported.

Marlene Johnson collapsed in court on Wednesday after she was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole following a two-hour deliberation by the jury, reported WBTV.

“Ma’am, you will die in prison. That is my order,” said Judge Stuart Albright after sentencing.

“I disagree with the jury’s decision,” said Johnson. “I’m innocent. I was never there. I would never hurt anybody. I would not have killed Shirley Pierce.”

Judge Albright responded, “The DNA evidence squarely contradicts what you just said.”

Court testimony revealed that Johnson had stalked Pierce prior to the murder, leading the victim to take secure several restraining orders against her. Investigators discovered surveillance photos of Pierce in Johnson’s belongings in addition to items taken from her mailbox. Johnson had reportedly attempted to clean up her victim’s blood using towels and bleach, reported the Post.

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Several of Pierce’s family members were present in court and slammed Johnson’s actions.

“I don’t know how a human being could’ve done such a horrible thing,” said Ann Barnhardt, Pierce’s sister. She proclaimed that Johnson did not deserve to walk the streets, but she would attempt to work on forgiveness.

“The sight of you makes me sick to my stomach,” Barnhardt added.

Tracy Pierce Brown, the victim’s daughter was reportedly distraught in court, telling Johnson, “As a Christian, I’m supposed to be forgiving. I can never forgive you for what you did, and if that keeps me from going to heaven to see her, then I will meet you in hell.”

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten who investigated the case is hopeful that after nearly five years, the family can finally get closure, WBTV reported.

“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,” Auten said. “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.”

Christabel is a twenty-something graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University. She's a big fan of writing, television, movies, general pop culture and complaining about how they've annoyed her. Long live the Oxford comma.
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