Brenda Posey and Harry Smith hired Robert Johnson to do yard work for them, but the decision proved fatal when they had a dispute over payment, according to 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard.
The Lexington County couple were stabbed multiple times and ultimately bled to death, said Hubbard's office. After they were dead, Johnson confessed, he set fire to their bedroom, according to the solicitor's office.
On Thursday, Johnson, 36, pleaded guilty to the 2016 murders and received two life sentences without the possibility of parole, according to Hubbard.
“This was a tragic case," 11th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Shawn Graham said. "We are pleased that justice was served today and that Johnson can never harm another member of our community.”
Law enforcement first became aware of the situation on May 26, 2016, when Lexington County Sheriff's deputies responded to a house fire on Cedarcrest Drive.
Firefighters soon discovered the burnt bodies of Posey and Smith in the master bedroom, Hubbard's office reported.
An arson investigator was brought in from SLED to examine the home, which was determined to be a crime scene, according to Hubbard's office.
After assessing that the fire was intentionally set with a match or lighter, Hubbard's office said the arson investigator determined the blaze was ignited in the area of the master bedroom, where the couple's bodies were found.
Further investigation showed that debris from the fire tested positive for gasoline, which matched another discovery in the investigation — a gas can that had been "abandoned" in the living room of the home, according to Hubbard's office.
Johnson tried to distance himself from the murders, running away to be with relatives in Florence County, Hubbard's office reported.
Three days after the fire was discovered, Johnson was found in Florence and arrested, according to Hubbard's office, adding Johnson admitted to setting the fire after Posey and Smith were dead.