The Sheriff’s Office alleges the child "sustained injuries to several parts of its body" while under Rebecca Gussage-Johnston’s care. Officials did not specify her relationship to the child.
Gussage-Johnston reportedly told investigators she punished the child for "acting out," and she kept the child "confined to a chair for an extended period without receiving any care or attention."
Gussage-Johnston neglected to call for medical help for nearly 24 hours even though she had access to a phone, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies initially arrested Gussage-Johnston on charges of aggravated child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and child neglect. However, the Medical Examiner’s Office later determined the toddler’s cause of death to be "homicide due to severe neglect."
The Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday, June 15, that Gussage-Johnston is now facing a charge of first-degree murder while engaged in aggravated child abuse. According to the statement, "These charges reflect the seriousness and gravity of this horrific crime."
In a statement, Sheriff Chad Chronister said, "It is truly heart-wrenching to witness such senseless and preventable acts of violence targeting our youth. The tenacity of our detectives has allowed us to ensure this woman faces the consequences of her disgusting actions."