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Teen makes first appearance, charged with grandmother's murder

17-year-old James Gizzi makes first court appearance on 2-8-19. (Daisha Jones, NewsChannel 12)

A teenager accused of murdering his grandmother, setting her home on fire, leaving her dog to die in the flames and then fleeing to Mississippi made his first court appearance Friday.

17-year-old James Gizzi stood before a Craven County judge at 11 a.m. as he was read his charges and the possibility that he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Gizzi is charged with an open county of murder, first degree arson, felony cruelty to animals and felony larceny of a stolen vehicle.

The charges stem from a mobile home fire along Hwy. 55 in the Jasper community early Monday morning. NewsChannel 12 was the first and only station on the scene at the time of the fire. Firefighters originally said no one was inside the home but that information proved incorrect.

Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes said they believe Gizzi killed his grandmother, 68-year-old Marjorie Thompson, before setting her home on fire. Authorities said the flames killed Thompson's dog, who was found curled up by her side.

Gizzi was arrested later that day after driving to Caledonia, Mississippi in his mother's car, authorities say. Hughes said they received a tip Gizzi was staying at his brother's house in the area and was later arrested during a traffic stop in Lowndes County.

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

Gizzi was extradited back to Craven County Thursday night on a charge of felony larceny of a stolen vehicle.

According to Sheriff Hughes, Gizzi confessed to murdering his grandmother before his extradition. "He said, 'I did it,'" Hughes said, adding there is no known motive at this time.

"Now keep in mind, this is an ongoing investigation so we will continue interviews and following every lead like we have an all of our cases. As it progresses, we will certainly let you know. But right now, he has not come right out and said, "This is why I did it,'" Hughes said.

Due to James Gizzi being 17 years old, he is not eligible for the death penalty if found guilty, according to District Attorney Scott Thomas. The maximum sentence Gizzi can face is life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Gizzi is due back in court on March 1.

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