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Memorial gathering set ablaze

Johnson

A remembrance celebration honoring the life of a young man killed in an apparent hit-and-run on Sunday near Lowesville turned into a crime scene Monday night, after a person set to fire to the home where nearly a dozen people had gathered.

The apparent arson, which occurred just before 10 p.m. at a home on Clintwood Drive, stemmed from an assault that took place at the residence a couple hours earlier, deputies said.

Clarence Ward Johnson, 37, of 2158 Hines Circle, in southeastern Lincoln County, had allegedly “struggled” with a woman inside a back bedroom at the residence, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Johnson soon left the residence after those inside broke up the fight. Shortly after, the group smelled smoke inside the home and fled the residence, deputies said.

The small-scale fire was quickly extinguished, and Johnson was located and arrested.

No injuries were reported in the incident, and only minimal damage was done to the residence, authorities noted.

The group in the home had gathered to celebrate the life of Preston Lee Ward, whose violent death this weekend remains under investigation.

Johnson faces multiple charges including first-degree arson, assault on a female and failure to appear for a previous misdemeanor offense, deputies said.

According to the North Carolina Department of Correction website, Johnson spent nearly a year in prison in 2007 for possessing a firearm, after having been convicted of prior felony charges in both Lincoln and Gaston counties. However, he was convicted of the firearm offense in Stanley County where two years earlier, NC DOC records showed that he was also found guilty of misdemeanor larceny of a motor vehicle, larceny of motor fuel, assault on a female and damage to property.

Johnson’s has additionally been convicted of at least five felonies in North Carolina, including second-degree burglary, larceny, drug-use, possessing stolen goods and breaking and entering.

His criminal history also lists a misdemeanor conviction for larceny of dogs in Lincoln County in 1997.

Johnson remains behind Lincoln County bars under a $24,500 secured bond and is expected to make a first court appearance on Friday.

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON, Staff Writer

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