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Woman accused of arson receives suspended sentence

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A Roswell woman charged with arson after she allegedly set fire to an auto repair shop while her husband was inside received a three-year suspended sentence Monday during a change of plea hearing.

Vienna Johnson (Submitted Photo)

District Judge Dustin K. Hunter followed the recommendation put forth by the Chaves County District Attorney’s Office and sentenced Vienna Johnson, 37, to a three-year prison term, all suspended and to be served on supervised probation, followed by two years of parole, according to court documents.

She will also be required to pay restitution, and is prohibited from contacting the shop owner or returning to the scene of the incident.

Johnson on Monday changed her initial plea of not guilty to no contest on one count of arson over $2,500 but not more than $20,000, in connection with a fire set to a 600 block of East Second Street auto repair shop in the early morning hours of July 18.

An order was also entered into by the court Monday to allow Johnson, who was being held in pre-trial detention, to be released from custody.

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Ira Shiflett, Johnson’s attorney, confirmed the sentence Tuesday, but declined to comment further about it.

Tania Colon, assistant district attorney and prosecutor in the case, could not be reached for comment before press time.

Johnson was accused of setting fire to the auto repair shop where her husband worked and was residing at the time.

A short time after the fire was reported, Johnson was arrested, but did not provide police with any information pertaining to the investigation.

According to court documents, a man who lived in a trailer on the shop’s property later told police he learned about the fire when Johnson knocked on his door and told him to go help her husband who was asleep inside the burning building.

When the man rushed over to the shop to get Johnson’s husband out of the building, Johnson reportedly got in her vehicle and drove away.

Johnson’s husband eventually emerged from the building and no one was injured, but court documents state there was extensive damage to the office on the western side of the shop.

The man who lived in the trailer also reported that when he was trying to put out the fire, he saw a garden hose was cut and a valve attached to the shop damaged. He added that sometime before the fire he heard Johnson and her husband arguing outside in the parking lot.

When interviewed by police, the owner of the shop said Johnson’s husband had been staying at the shop due to problems he was having with his wife.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.