Preliminary hearing

Edward Johnson, left, sits next to his attorney, Mike LaPlante, during a preliminary hearing on Monday. (Kirsten Fiscus/The Anniston Star)

Kirsten Fiscus

A Calhoun County judge on Monday sent a murder case against a Jacksonville man to a grand jury.

Edward Maurice Johnson, 40, of Jacksonville was charged with murder in December after Marion Brown, 53, of Piedmont died at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, police said. Piedmont police had found Brown bleeding and unconscious in a house in the 600 block of Draper Street around 2 a.m. Dec. 8 after responding to a call from the house. Brown had suffered blunt-force trauma to the head, police said.

On Monday, Johnson appeared with his attorney, Mike LaPlante, for a preliminary hearing in District Judge Chris McIntyre’s courtroom. During the hearing, Carolyn Durham, a Piedmont police investigator, gave statements about the case.

Durham said Brown and three other people had been in the Piedmont home when Johnson arrived sometime around midnight. The home, which belonged to an infirm Piedmont man who lived elsewhere, was largely empty, and the power was switched off, Durham said.

A woman and man were in one bedroom and another woman told police she was asleep when Johnson arrived.

“When he came to the house, they heard a big thud, came into the room and found Mr. Brown on the floor,” Durham said. “Mr. Johnson was telling them Mr. Brown fell and that’s how he got the injury.”

Johnson allegedly told the others that they should leave the home and leave Brown on the concrete floor where he landed, Durham said.

“He took Mr. Brown’s wallet out of his back pocket,” Durham said.

During a conversation with Johnson, Durham said the defendant admitted that Mr. Brown gave him some money, that he didn’t pay him back and the victim took some of Mr. Johnson’s property and gave it away.

“He was mad about that,” she said.

Brown stayed on the floor for about an hour before Johnson and two of the other witnesses left the home.

“One of the women called a man from down the street, told him she’d found Mr. Brown like that and he told her to call us,” Durham said. “She did later tell us she was at the home when the incident took place.”

Durham said police determined that the floor caused the main injury to Brown.

LaPlante argued police didn’t have enough evidence to conclude the case was a homicide.

“I understand this is the tragedy of Mr. Brown losing his life,” LaPlante said. “The part that’s difficult, and I think was hard for Ms. Durham to articulate, was how this ended up being murder.”

LaPlante argued Brown simply could have fallen in the dark home.

“They were in a pitch-black house and there was no light that we know of,” LaPlante said. “They hear the door open and then they hear a thud. Not a punch or anything first. You could charge them all with making a bad decision but I don’t know how you get to murder with the details given.”

After Johnson was charged, Durham said, investigators located online messages between the defendant and family.

“He said that he did something bad,” Durham said. “These messages are all just admitting guilt to other people. He used the word murder in one conversation with somebody.”

McIntyre, after listening to LaPlante’s arguments and Durham’s statements, sent the case to a grand jury and kept Johnson’s bond at $150,000.

​Staff writer Kirsten Fiscus: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @kfiscus_star.