Man Accused of Setting Garland Clerk on Fire Appears In Court

Matthew Johnson could face the death penalty

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Matthew Johnson is accused of setting on fire 76-year-old Nancy Harris, a convenience store clerk from Garland. He faces the death penalty. (Published Friday, May 31, 2013)

    The man accused of killing a convenience store clerk by setting her on fire appeared in court on Friday for a pretrial hearing.

    Matthew Lee Johnson could face the death penalty for the death of 76-year-old Nancy Harris, a woman known in her Garland community as "Everyone's Grandma."

    Johnson is accused of dousing Harris with gasoline and setting her on fire, during a robbery at the Fina Gas station where she worked in May 2012.

    The 76-year-old suffered burns on 40 percent of her body and clung to life for five days, then died from her injuries.

    "Things will never be the same here in this community, in this area and the people that work here and the people that knew her and grew up with her," said Antonio Rodriguez, a  friend of Nancy Harris. "Things will never be the same."

    Members of the Garland community say they will never forget the woman everyone called "Grandma."

    "Always thinking and doing for other people and this is how we are always going to remember her, as a very kind and loving person," said Rodriguez.

    At the time of the attack, Harris was able to describe her attacker to Garland police officers who helped extinguish the fire.

    Johnson was later arrested near the gas station after police said he tried to burglarize a home in the area.

    Johnson's defense attorneys said he is pleading not guilty.

    Dallas County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Johnson.

    Jury selection starts on June 21 and his trial is scheduled for Oct. 28.