Missing Pennsylvania toddler found dead, DA said

A woman is in custody and a toddler is missing after the child's father said a driver abducted his daughter in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, according to police documents and a news release. Taji Walsh, the child's grandmother, makes a plea for information.

Posted: Sep 4, 2019 12:40 AM
Updated: Sep 4, 2019 12:40 AM

A 23-month-old toddler who was reportedly abducted in Pennsylvania has been found dead, a district attorney said.

Nalani Johnson was found in Pine Ridge Park near Blairsville and the coroner has been called to the scene, Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said at a press conference Tuesday.

An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday. "Until we have some more information regarding the cause and manner of death, we really can't give you much at this point," Dougherty said.

Sharena Nancy, the driver of the car in which her father said he'd last seen the child, has been charged with kidnapping of a minor.

The toddler's father, Paul Johnson, previously said Nancy drove off with his daughter Saturday after an argument, according to a criminal complaint filed by Allegheny County police.

Johnson and Nancy were in the beginning of an "intermittent romantic relationship," and became acquainted over social media in the past few months, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said a press conference earlier on Tuesday.

Nancy is being held without bail at the Allegheny County Jail. Other charges against her include interference with custody of children and concealment of whereabouts of a child. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 16.

CNN hasn't been able to identify or reach an attorney for Nancy.

Johnson, his daughter and a friend spent several hours with Nancy on Saturday before the reported abduction. They were all riding in a car driven by Nancy when an argument ensued, according to the complaint.

Johnson decided to get out of the vehicle, but when he went to get his daughter out of the car seat, Nancy drove away with the toddler, the complaint said.

Johnson told detectives he tried calling Nancy's cellphone multiple times, but she never picked up, so he called 911 around 5 p.m. ET. Police arrested Nancy, 25, in the vehicle during a traffic stop around 7:30 p.m. ET, but did not find the child inside, the complaint said.

Nancy told detectives that Johnson sold the child to an individual for $10,000 and asked her to complete the drop-off, according to the complaint.

Nancy said he showed her a photo of a black woman she was supposed to meet and asked her to drive the toddler "20 minutes" from a gas station in Monroeville along US Route 22 to meet the woman, the complaint says.

Nancy said she was told the woman would then "flag" her down and Nancy was to turn over the toddler, the complaint says.

Nancy told detectives she encountered a silver SUV with out-of-state license plates parked on the side of the road and did as she had been instructed, passing the toddler and the car seat over to a woman standing next to the car and then driving off. Nancy told police she saw a second woman inside the SUV.

Nancy said she then drove around, smoked cigarettes and talked on the phone with her husband, the complaint said.

McDonough said Tuesday they have no evidence to corroborate Nancy's version of events, adding that Johnson and his family have been cooperative with the ongoing investigation.

Nalani's grandmother, Taji Walsh, told CNN affiliate KDKA that Nancy's account of the events is not true. Her son, whom she calls "PJ," is Nalani's father.

"If the police felt that PJ was in any way involved, he wouldn't be walking freely, he'd be locked somewhere up like she is," she said.

Johnson told police that the car Nancy was driving had Uber and Lyft stickers on it. Representatives of Uber did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

Dana Davis, a communications manager for Lyft, told CNN that while this incident did not happen on the Lyft platform, they have banned Nancy from driving with Lyft, adding that the allegations were "deeply disturbing."

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