ST. PAULS — A 29-year-old St. Pauls man has been charged with murder after a woman’s body was exhumed and new evidence was discovered, according to St. Pauls Police Chief Tommy Hagens.
Jason Wayne Johnson, of Blue Street, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree burglary Tuesday in the death of 61-year-old Patricia Diana Burrow, who died on March 11, 2011.
Hagens said Burrow had originally appeared to have died from heart disease, but police began looking at the case as a possible murder after hearing rumors throughout town.
Burrow’s body was exhumed from Gardens of Faith Cemetery in Lumberton on Oct. 24 by St. Pauls police and State Bureau of Investigation agents and sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Chapel Hill. Her body has since been reburied at the same site.
“She was murdered, probably suffocated,” Hagens said.
Hagens said that Johnson broke into Burrow’s home on McLean Street and was confronted by Burrows.
“She recognized him, and began to berate him,” Hagens said. “He got scared, then panicked … and killed her. He then covered her body with a blanket and slipped out.”
St. Pauls police Capt. Brent Adkins said that information connecting Johnson to her death and the Medical Examiner’s findings provided police with enough evidence to arrest Johnson.
“We found enough probable cause to arrest him and charge him with the murder,” Adkins said. “Although the full Medical Examiner’s report is still pending, we got enough information to make the arrest in Mrs. Burrow’s death.”
Johnson, who was being held in Sanford on unrelated charges, was transferred to the Lumberton Correctional Institution, according to Hagens. He is being held without bond. His first scheduled court appearance was Wednesday.
Johnson has been previously convicted on several counts of breaking and entering and larceny and has spent more than four years in jail.
Paul Terry, editor of the St. Pauls Review, contributed to this report.