Murder charges in death of elderly woman in arson fire

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FORREST CITY, Ark. — Prosecutors have charged Vernice Johnson with first-degree murder after a woman was killed in an arson fire in Forrest City.

The fire happened in an apartment building on Mann Avenue.

Investigators said the fire was set to get revenge on a man.

An elderly woman, Ruth Jones, got trapped in the fire and was severely burned and later died.

Investigators said the fire started behind the apartment last week, and it quickly spread into Jones’ apartment next door.

Crews said they found her passed out, just feet from her bedroom  with burns over half her body.

Vernice Johnson

Vernice Johnson

Initially Johnson was free, after posting a $30,000 bond Friday on the arson charge.

The next day, Jones died in the hospital from her burns.

Those who knew Jones said she was a loving grandma dedicated to her church and known for taking care of all the kids in her neighborhood.

“It hurts coming through here and seeing this. Knowing I can’t talk to my grandma and visit her no more. It really hurts,” said Lawson.