Teen charged with murder and arson in grandmother's death

CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - Craven County officials obtained a confession from 17-year James Gizzi, the suspect accused of setting fire to his residence, and murdering his 68-year old grandmother.

Gizzi returned to Craven County Thursday night and made his first appearance before a judge on Friday. Officials say it was an interview with investigators while Gizzi was still in Mississippi that confirmed him as the primary suspect.

The initial statement was given in Mississippi and that's where we obtained a confession," according to Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes.

Craven County officials say they could not detail exactly what Gizzi said in his confession, but that his statement leads them to believe he is guilty of the charges he now faces.

Gizzi, who allegedly set fire to the residence early Monday morning, killing his grandmother, 68-year old Marjore Thompson, faces an open count of murder, in addition to charges of arson, felony larceny of a vehicle, and felony animal abuse.

"You have to be 18 or older to be even eligible for the death penalty. So the most serious for him would be life without the possibility of parole," explained District Attorney Scott Thomas.

Gizzi was arrested several days after the fire and authorities say he was the main suspect from the start.

"There was a number of things that came in, but not just one specifically. But just everything pointed back to him," said Hughes.

Despite the confession, there's still no clear motive "There will be several things that we'll follow up on with the Craven County Sheriff's Office, they're still in the process of interviewing some folks," Thomas said.

While Gizzi remains in custody without bond, investigators say their work is not done. "This is an ongoing investigation. So we'll continue interviews and following every lead like we have in all of our cases," Hughes promised.​

Hughes added, that at this point their investigation has not provided them with any reason to believe any other suspects are involved. James' older brother John remains in Mississippi where he was arrested for possession of that stolen vehicle.

Gizzi will be provided a court-appointed attorney, and is due back in court March 1.

Authorities say a confession from a teenager led them to charge him with the murder of his grandmother.

James Gizzi was brought back to Craven County late Thursday. He was arrested at his brother's home in Caledonia, Mississippi earlier this week.

The charges against the 17-year-old were upgraded from felony larceny of a motor vehicle to an open count of murder, arson and felony animal abuse.

Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes says Gizzi's 68-year-old grandmother, Marjorie Thompson, was found dead in her home after a fire early Monday morning along Hwy. 55 in Jasper. He did not say how she died.

The sheriff says Gizzi's statement made during his first interview in Mississippi led them to bring charges. He would not say any more about the specifics of that confession.

Gizzi's 19-year-old brother, John, is also charged with felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

Sheriff Hughes says they are treating this as a homicide and arson investigation and more charges are possible.

After a brief court appearance Friday morning, a judge ordered Gizzi to continue being held without any bond.


A woman is dead and her teenage grandson in a Mississippi jail awaiting his return to Craven County to face charges.

It all stems from a fire that happened early Monday on Highway 55 in Jasper.

Sheriff Chip Hughes says Marjorie Thompson was found dead in the home, while her 17-year-old grandson, James Gizzi, is in the Lowndes County, Mississippi jail.

Gizzi is a suspect in his grandmother's murder, but right now is only charged with felony larceny of a motor vehicle.

Hughes said he lived in the home with his grandmother and was arrested on Monday at his brother's home in Caledonia, Mississippi.

His 19-year-old brother John is charged with felony possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

The sheriff said a family dog also died in the arson fire. He did not say how the 68-year-old woman was killed.

Deputies in Mississippi say they expect James Gizzi to be returned to North Carolina in the next couple of days to face charges.

Sheriff Hughes says they are treating this as a homicide and arson investigation and more charges are possible.

Previous Story

Craven County authorities now confirm that a person died in that fire early Monday morning.

The 2:30 a.m. fire on Highway 55 West near Sim Dawson Road outside of New Bern destroyed the home.

Officials have been pretty tight-lipped about the fire, but now say it was a fatality. The sheriff's office has scheduled a 5:00 p.m. news conference at the scene to provide an update.

Previous Story

The Craven County district attorney was at the scene of a house fire this morning as authorities are remaining tight-lipped about many details.

The 2:30 a.m. fire on Highway 55 West near Sim Dawson Road outside of New Bern destroyed the home.

Assistant Emergency Services Director Ira Whitford says the fire is still under investigation. He would not confirm whether or not anyone was inside the home or injured in the blaze.

Fire trucks and an ambulance were at the house several hours after the fire was extinguished.