Affidavit: Man blamed ‘spirits’ for Smith County fire which killed half-brother

Man blamed ‘spirits’ for Smith County fire which killed half-brother
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 12:17 PM CDT

SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - A Smith County man allegedly blamed “spirits” for his actions which led to a house fire that killed his half-brother.

Robert Harrison Johnson IV remains in the Smith County jail charged with murder with a bond set at $1-million dollars in connection to a fire which led to the death of his half-brother on May 18.

According to an affidavit, Johnson was interviewed by the Smith County Fire Marshal after the fire on County Road 1113. The fire marshal asked Johnson what happened and Johnson initially responded, “I don’t know man, probably that fan caught on fire.” Johnson said he walked by a fan and he smelled something burning. He then said something made him move out of the house.

When the fire marshal informed Johnson that his half-brother, Jack Ross, was deceased, Johnson’s first statement was, “He dead?” and then asked. “He got burned?”

The affidavit said body cam footage from the interview shows Johnson tell a family member, “They don’t believe me,” referring to some members of Johnson’s family not believing his story.

According to the affidavit, on May 24, Ross’s older brother was interviewed at his home in Red Oak. He said he came to Tyler as soon as he heard what happened because he felt Johnson had something to do with the death of Ross. The affidavit said the brother told investigators how violent Johnson would become when their mother wouldn’t give him money or buy him cigarettes. The brother also stated he believed Johnson’s drug use and jealousy towards Jack played a huge factor in Jack’s death. The brother also showed investigators several text messages where the mother was venting about Johnson’s violent outbursts and how they were getting more frequent. The brother stated when he arrived with other family following the fire, he confronted Johnson. He said Johnson immediately fled and began to shout, “I didn’t mean to kill him, I didn’t mean to kill him,” to avoid a confrontation. Investigators were told Johnson immediately fled Tyler for the Dallas area once he knew investigators were looking to interview him.

The affidavit said investigators interviewed Ross’s mother on May 26. The affidavit said she said the day of the fire, she had been taking care of Jack and had walked out of the room and smelled smoke, but though Johnson had been smoking in his room. She said she looked in Johnson’s room but didn’t see him.

The affidavit said after she fed Jack, she walked out and saw Johnson on the outside of the home staring at the home. She thought it was very unusual and that something was wrong. She said she asked Johnson what he was doing and Johnson started walking down the driveway towards the road away from the house. She said she went to an adjacent building to finish packing for a move and a short time later her friend came out of the building and saw an “orange glow” in Johnson’s room and heavy smoke coming from the house. The affidavit said the mother said she ran outside and began to scream for Jack and called 911 while her friend ran to the back of the house. Her friend was unable to get past the back door due to the house being fully engulfed in flames and smoke.

The affidavit said investigators interviewed Robert Johnson on June 2 in DeSoto. When asked to tell what happened the day of the fire, Johnson responded he didn’t tell anyone what really happened because his family doesn’t like him. Johnson said he got up at around 5 p.m. to smoke and said he walked down the street before the fire and found a small Marlboro cigarette. He said he went back to the house and smoked it. He said he was smoking it in his room while sitting on the side of his bed. The affidavit said Johnson said as he was smoking it, the cherry fell out and landed beneath his feet on a towel.

The affidavit said Johnson said he could smell it burning and went back to put it out with his finger, but could still smell it burning. Johnson stated that he looked at it, stood up, bent over with his hands behind his back and as it smoked he felt the need to leave. The affidavit said Johnson said a “ghost” prevented him from putting it out so he walked out leaving Jack inside the home. Johnson stated spirits made him leave while Jack was still inside the house.

When asked if he said anything to Jack, who was on the other side of the wall in his room with his headphones on before he left, Johnson answered, “No, they forced me out.”

The affidavit said investigators asked Johnson if he thought the cherry from his cigarette was smoking and eventually led to the house burning with Jack inside, why he wouldn’t even attempt to say anything and be able to walk away. Johnson responded again, “they made me.”

According to the affidavit, investigator notes on the fire marshal’s body cam footage during the initial incident showed Johnson showed no emotion or remorse with the loss of his half-brother. The affidavit said Johnson had also stated the fire was caused by a fan that was left on for several days during the initial incident, but during the interview nothing was mentioned about the fan, just the cherry of a cigarette. The affidavit said Johnson showed no emotion during the interview. It said Johnson had vivid details about the incident and blamed “spirits” for his actions that caused the death of Ross.


+ Smith County man accused of starting fire which killed disabled half-brother

Copyright 2022 KLTV. All rights reserved.