A rideshare driver behind bars in connection with the disappearance of Pennsylvania toddler Nalani Johnson is the sole suspect in the case, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. said, CBS Pittsburgh reports.
According to Zappala, authorities electronically traced the path of alleged kidnapper Sharena Nancy from the time she allegedly fled with the 1-year-old toddler from Penn Hills on Saturday, to the time she left the little girl in a wooded area of Pine Ridge Park in Indiana County.
Nalani’s father, Paul Johnson, reported the child missing Saturday after Nancy allegedly sped off with the girl at around 5 p.m. Johnson said his daughter and his friend Justin Rouse were in the car with him on the day in question, as they rode with Nancy in her black Toyota Yaris.
According to police, an argument broke out inside the car. Nancy demanded the men get out of her car, but she allegedly drove away before Johnson could get Nalani out of the vehicle. It’s unclear what the argument was about, but police said Johnson and Nancy were in an “intermittent” romantic relationship.
A search team comprised of numerous law enforcement agencies found Nalani’s lifeless body on Tuesday afternoon, still strapped in her car seat, in a secluded area at the state park.
The remote location where authorities found the little girl was a familiar area to Nancy, according to Zappala. As a rideshare driver, she had previously been to the area, and only a few days prior to Nalani’s death.
Zappala also touched on how Nalani died. Although he doesn’t know the official cause of death, he said the toddler did not die from outdoor elements.
“I don’t think any effort that was undertaken could have saved that child. One conclusion I think I can share with you guys is that the baby did not die from exposure, which gives some solace because it’s particularly an agonizing way to die.”
Zappala told CBS Pittsburgh that Nalani’s car seat didn’t appear to have been tossed into the wooded area, but instead “placed” there.
The DA also said that Nalani’s dad is not considered a suspect in the case.
“The only evidence we have now is that the defendant, the person who is under arrest right now for the kidnapping charges, is responsible for taking that baby and ultimately the homicide that’s involved.”
While Nancy is facing charges of kidnapping, concealment of a child, and interference with custody, she hasn’t yet been charged with homicide. Authorities said they’re waiting on the official autopsy results before pressing additional charges.
The autopsy results, however, could take weeks. Coroner Jerry Overman Jr. issued a statement reminding the public that the official cause of death has still not been released.
“Unfortunately autopsies and toxicology results take time to complete, approximately six weeks or more, which is frustration for us all. Once the autopsy and toxicology reports are completed and received at the Indiana County Coroner’s Office the reports will be reviewed and determined if the results of the autopsy and toxicology can be released depending the investigation status of the Allegheny County Police.”
Check back for further details.
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[Feature Photo: Nalani Johnson/Police Handout]