Body of toddler who ride-share driver said was sold for $10,000 found in Pennsylvania park: Authorities
(Credit: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) Nalani Johnson in an undated photo. (BLAIRSVILLE, Pa.) — The toddler who went missing after a ride-share driver claimed her family sold her for $10,000 has been found dead in a Pennsylvania nature park, authorities said.
The Allegheny County Police Department and Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty announced Tuesday night that the body of 1-year-old Nalani Johnson, who went missing on Saturday, had been found.
On Wednesday, Dougherty announced during a brief news conference that Nalani’s body was found in Pine Ridge Park in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, some 40 miles east of where the girl had last been seen, according to ABC Pittsburgh affiliate WTAE.
“This is not the outcome that any of us would have wished,” Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said in a statement. “We will continue to keep the Johnson family in our thoughts.”
An Amber Alert was issued Saturday after 25-year-old ride-share driver Sharena Nancy drove off with Nalani still in her car seat, the girl’s father, 21-year-old Paul Johnson, told police.
Johnson and Nancy had been involved in a romantic relationship that began online months ago, McDonough told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. An argument that sparked between Nancy and Johnson’s friend, Justin Rouse, Saturday afternoon culminated in Johnson and Rouse exiting Nancy’s Toyota Yaris at an intersection in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, and Nancy driving off before Johnson could unbuckle his daughter, authorities said.
When Nancy was pulled over two hours later, neither Nalani nor the car seat were in the vehicle, according to authorities.
Nancy initially told investigators during an interview that Johnson “sold” his daughter to an unnamed individual for $10,000 and gave her instructions to drop the child off to a woman who would “flag” her down along U.S. Route 22, according to a criminal complaint filed by the police department on Saturday.
Nancy claimed she encountered two woman next to a silver SUV with out-of-state license plates and turned the girl over to them, according to the complaint. Detectives have not found any evidence to corroborate Nancy’s account, McDonough said.
Nancy was charged with kidnapping of a minor, interference with custody of children and concealment of the whereabouts of a child, according to the criminal complaint. It’s unclear whether she has retained an attorney or entered a plea.
Although Nancy’s vehicle had Uber and Lyft stickers on it, she was not acting in the capacity of a ride-share driver at the time of Nalani’s disappearance, McDonough said. Spokespeople for Uber and Lyft confirmed to ABC News that Nancy did not take any rides that day. In addition, Nancy’s account with Lyft has been deactivated, the company’s spokesman said.
Nalani would have turned 2 this month, WTAE reported. The circumstances surrounding her death remain unclear, but an autopsy is scheduled to be completed on Wednesday, Dougherty said.
Investigators are requesting business owners and residents along the Route 22 corridor check for surveillance footage that may be relevant to the investigation. Detectives are also looking for anyone who knows Nancy or may have information on Nalani’s disappearance or death to contact them.
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