TYLER, Texas (KETK) – In an arrest affidavit for Robert Harrison Johnson IV, it is said that Johnson told investigators “spirits” prevented him from putting out the house fire that killed his brother.
He was arrested on June 7, and according to the Smith County Fire Marshal’s Office, the 32-year-old has been charged with murder.
At the scene of the fire, Johnson initially told the fire marshal on May 18 that he thought a fan had caught on fire, and had smelled something burning before walking out of the house, documents show. When asked by the fire marshal if he left the house because he was scared, Johnson allegedly told him, “No, I just started walking out of the house.”
Investigators at the scene heard Johnson tell a family member “they don’t believe me” in regards to his story of what happened that night, according to the affidavit.
Jack Ross, a man who had been disabled since suffering a stroke at the age of 2, was found deceased inside the residence by first responders and pronounced dead at the scene.
The fire marshal informed Johnson and his mother, who lived in the house with her two sons, that Ross was dead, according to the affidavit, and Johnson’s first statement was “he dead” and then he asked “he got burned?”
Investigations that followed the fire, including an interview with Johnson and other family members, reportedly revealed that Johnson had been smoking in his room when the cherry fell out of the cigarette and landed on a towel that was on the floor.
Johnson told police in his interview that he could smell it burning, and as it began to smoke he felt the need to leave, according to the affidavit.
“Robert stated that a ‘ghost’ prevented him from putting it out, so he just walked out leaving Jack in the residence,” the affidavit said. “Robert stated spirits made him leave while Jack was still in the house.”
Investigators asked Johnson if he attempted to get his brother out of the house, but Johnson responded that the spirits forced him out, according to the affidavit.
The 911 call was later made by the mother after a neighbor saw an “orange glow” coming from Johnson’s bedroom. She then “began to scream for her baby ‘Jack,'” and tried to reach him from the back door but was unable to due to the flames, court documents showed.
According to the affidavit, a family member told police that he believes Johnson’s drug use and jealousy towards his brother played a factor in his death. The same family member also showed investigators text messages from their mother venting about Johnson’s violent outbursts and how they appeared to be growing more frequent, documents show.
In the affidavit, detectives noted that in Johnson’s account of the night, he made no attempts to extinguish or report the fire and did not attempt to save the life of his handicap brother who was in the immediate adjacent room.