A 29-year-old Vero Beach man was charged with several felonies in connection to the 2017 death of a woman found badly burned in a scorched car in St. Lucie County, an arrest report shows.
Surveillance footage shows Pierre Lamarr McEwen purchasing two gas cans, gas and a lighter at nearby stores the day before officials discovered the body of Brandaris (Brandi) Diandra Johnson, reports show. Deputies said Johnson went to McEwen’s apartment the day before her body was discovered, and never left.
Friday, St. Lucie County deputies arrested McEwen, of the 800 block of 22nd Street, on charges of first-degree arson, two counts of destroying or tampering with evidence, failure to report a death to medical examiner and criminal mischief damage to property. McEwen was held Tuesday at the St. Lucie County Jail without bond.
Deputies said McEwen was the last person to call 25-year-old Johnson, Vero Beach, on Oct. 25, 2017. The next day, St. Lucie County deputies and fire rescue personnel responded to a white Hyundai Sonata fully engulfed in flames at Blind Creek Beach access area, in the 5400 block of Ocean Drive, officials said.
The beach area is on south Hutchinson Island.
Detectives made a gruesome discovery in the back of the vehicle. Deputies found Johnson’s body burned beyond recognition, reports show.
Deputies identified the body through dental analysis, officials said. Medical examiners said there were no signs of soot inside Johnson’s body, leading doctors to think Johnson died before the fire, reports show.
The report did not state what caused Johnson’s death.
Johnson’s obituary showed she enjoyed traveling, playing video games, reading books and going shopping. Johnson attended schools in Hillsborough County, the obituary states.
Johnson did not suffer from any known fatal diseases, medical examiners said. She had no drugs or alcohol in her system when she died, reports show.
A state fire marshal determined the car fire was intentionally set and began an arson investigation.
Deputies looked at Johnson’s phone log history and noticed one of her numbers was used for escort advertisements, reports show. Deputies reviewed a phone call made from Johnson’s number to another number, which traced back to McEwen, authorities said.
Deputies said McEwen texted Johnson more than 30 times several days before her death.
In November 2017, deputies spoke with McEwen, who denied knowing Johnson or communicating with her, reports show. McEwen constantly told deputies, “That’s not me. I wouldn’t hurt her. I’m not a murderer,” reports show.
Law enforcement officials found a black .38 caliber revolver hidden in a zip lock bag inside the laundry room of McEwen’s apartment complex, authorities said. Johnson’s mother identified the firearm as the same weapon Johnson often carried in her purse, reports show.
Deputies used Google’s Law Enforcement Request System to trace McEwen’s locations around the time of Johnson’s death. The system showed McEwen was near Blind Creek Beach, the area where Johnson’s body was found, about 30 minutes before emergency officials responded to reports of an arson.
Deputies arrested McEwen and took him to the St. Lucie County Jail. The circumstances surrounding Johnson’s death remains under investigation.