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Convict in Edgecombe cab driver's killing receives parole

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TARBORO — A man convicted of murder for running over a cab driver with her own taxi during a robbery 27 years ago is free on parole.

Artis Felton Johnson, now 53, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of 25-year-old Mary Ann Lee in February 1993.

Johnson and his co-defendant, Joseph Earl Bellamy, now 51, kidnapped Lee, a driver for the now defunct City Cab Co., and killed her during a robbery. A sergeant with the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office found Lee’s partially nude body at the end of a dirt path off Hart’s Chapel Road, according to a 1994 article in True Detective magazine.

Prior to killing Lee, Johnson served nearly a year in prison for assault on a policeman and resisting a public officer, according to the N.C. Department of Public Safety. 

Since his incarceration, Johnson has had only three infractions. 

Bellamy isn’t eligible for release via North Carolina’s Mutual Agreement Parole Program since he was also convicted of armed robbery in Lee’s death, according to parole officials.

Bellamy has 18 infractions since his incarceration began, including assault with a weapon, fighting, threats and other offenses.

The N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission has agreed to free Johnson due to his successful completion of the Mutual Agreement Parole Program, a three-way agreement between the commission, Johnson and the state Division of Prisons offering scholastic and vocational courses.

Under the state’s current structured sentencing law, parole has been eliminated for crimes committed on or after Oct. 1, 1994. However, the commission has the responsibility of paroling offenders who were sentenced under previous guidelines.