April 28, 2001
Kansas City, Missouri
The naked body of a headless 3-year-old girl is found, her injuries indicating she was beaten with an ashtray, kicked repeatedly, and decapitated while she was still alive
Erica Green’s tiny headless body was found near the ashtray used to beat her, though no fingerprints or DNA was present on it. Her head was found a few days later on May 1, wrapped in a paper bag. She was nicknamed “Precious Doe” and facial reconstruction busts, police sketches, and computerized likenesses were created to attempt to find her identity.
Four years later, on May 5, 2005, Erica Green was identified. Her mother, Michelle Johnson, was arrested along with Michelle’s husband Harrell Johnson (the couple married a year after Erica’s death) for Erica’s murder. Michelle’s 8 other children were taken into state custody or placed with relatives.
During trial, Michelle took a plea deal, receiving a 25 year sentence in exchange for testifying against her husband. She testified Harrell was high on drugs and kicked Erica in the side of the head when she refused to go to bed. Michelle claims her screaming “what the fuck did you do?” snapped Harrell from his high. Michelle took Erica to the bathtub and filled it with cold water to revive her, but was unsuccessful. She laid Erica on the bedroom floor, singing to her and kissing her, hoping she’d wake up. She claimed she couldn’t take Erica to the hospital because both she and Harrell had outstanding warrants.
When Michelle believed Erica breathed her final breath, she put Erica in a stroller to dispose of the body. Michelle and Harrell took Erica to a park and undressed the little girl for reasons neither could explain. Harrell then cut Erica’s head off with a pair of hedge clippers. It was revealed during autopsy that Erica had still been alive, though unconscious, before she was decapitated. The pair abandoned the body and head in the park. (It should be noted that these statements were all according to Michelle’s testimony and may be biased in her favor.)
Harrell was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Michelle received a 25 year sentence in exchange for testimony against her husband.