A Michigan woman was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to the brutal murder of her 3-year-old daughter.
Justin Johnson told the court she had been diagnosed at 13 with borderline personality, bipolar and other mental health disorders, but she had gone without prescription mental health medication for a year by September 2021 and had been abusing heroin and methamphetamine when she experienced hallucinations urging her to kill her own child, reported MLive.
“She was getting hallucinations from the TV that had instructed her to take her daughter’s life or they would kill her,” said Ryan Eberline, an investigator with Child Protective Services. “It was SpongeBob who was saying these things on the TV. If she didn’t do what she did to her daughter they would kill her. She said she was afraid for her life and she had lost her mind.”
The 23-year-old Johnson told the court she did not remember Sutton Mosser, who had turned 3 two days before her Sept. 16, 2021, death, was in her care and she did not recall details of her death, and she told the court she continued to endure hallucinations for months until medication and treatment stabilized her mental health.
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“I spent one year and eight months in therapy helping me cope with the death of my daughter, dealing with my mental illness, and will continue (to do so) in prison,” Johnson said.
Johnson told the court she was filled with remorse and wished she could trade places with her daughter.
“First, I trust the police department has investigated the event to their best,” she said. “Second, I lost my child and as any mother would want justice, I also want justice for Sutton. If it was me who committed this murder, I expect to be punished as any other person would be. It is what’s fair for her. I apologize to my daughter, my family, her mother, and to this court for my crime.”
Johnson's 17-year-old brother testified that he found his sister in a bathroom apparently snorting drugs on the evening of Sept. 16, and she told him to mind his "f*cking business" when he asked where her child was, but he said that was a "normal response" from her.
The teen did not look for his niece at that time, and Johnson left a short time later, but he made a grisly discovery when he returned hours later from an outing at the beach and told his older brother Knesley Johnson Jr.
“There was like a foot sticking out of the bag,” he said. “I ran up and told Knesley, ‘There’s a foot in a bag.’ He didn’t believe me. He thought I was joking.”
Sutton's body had been wrapped in a blanket and stuffed into a tote along with some bloodstained clothing, and investigators encountered a gruesome crime scene in Johnson's bedroom.
“What I saw was something I’d never imagine I would see in over 30 years as an attorney,” said Iosco County prosecutor James A. Bacarella. “It was something truly insidious. It’s difficult for me to imagine, first off, how anybody could murder a child, a toddler, a 3-year-old. But for its mother to murder it, it’s just beyond what I can comprehend.”
Investigators found fingerprints, DNA and other evidence tying Johnson to her daughter's murder, and Bacarella said blood spatter patterns made clear the girl fought for her life.
“Instead, her mother chose to stab her 17 times,” Baracella said. “I don’t know you can reconcile with that. I don’t know how you can recover from that. I don’t know a way any person could be reformed from that. The most vulnerable of lives was entrusted to this mother and then brutally murdered by her.”