Posted on October 7, 2008 · Posted in Brain Injury

Date: 10/7/2008 1:59 PM

Associated Press Writer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The mother of a 3-year-old girl whose headless body was unidentified for nearly four years testified Tuesday that she watched her then-boyfriend kick her daughter in the head and helped him dump her body.

Michelle Johnson was the mother of Erica Green, who was called “Precious Doe” while authorities struggled to identify her.

Johnson told a Jackson County jury that Harrell Johnson was on drugs when he kicked Erica, and that she watched helplessly as her child dropped to the floor of the Kansas City house where they were staying.

“He just picked up his feet and kicked her on the side of the face. I said, ‘What the (expletive) did you do?’ It shook him out of his high,” Johnson said.

Michelle Johnson, 33, of Muskogee, Okla., took the stand on the second day of testimony in the first-degree murder trial of Harrell Johnson, 29, also of Muskogee.

Michelle Johnson, who married Harrell a year after her daughter’s death, pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder in Erica’s death and agreed to testify against her husband.

She said she tried to revive the girl by putting her in a bathtub of cold water and when the girl didn’t respond, she took her out and put her on the bedroom floor. She said she and Harrell Johnson did not seek medical help for the girl for fear of being arrested on outstanding warrants.

Prosecutors contend that after Erica died, Harrell Johnson decapitated her with a pair of hedge clippers and dumped her body in a wooded area of Kansas City, where a police officer found her in April 2001.

For four years, the case haunted residents who longed to know the identity of the girl they had nicknamed “Precious Doe” and who could have killed her in such horrific fashion.

Her identity remained unknown until 2005, after Harrell Johnson’s grandfather in Muskogee tipped a Kansas City community activist who had kept the case in the spotlight.

Prosecutors contend that the Johnsons committed murder by failing to seek medical help as Erica lay dying for hours and possibly days. A pediatric neurosurgeon testified Monday that if the couple had quickly sought medical attention for Erica, doctors probably could have reversed the damage.

The defense admits that Harrell Johnson kicked the girl after she refused to go to bed, but contends that the act was not premeditated, as required for a first-degree murder conviction.

Besides first-degree murder, Harrell Johnson also is charged with endangering the welfare of a child, abuse of a child resulting in death and abuse of a child.

The trial is expected to last about a week. If convicted of first-degree murder, his only possible sentence would be life in prison without parole. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, partly because Johnson agreed to withdraw his request to have the case moved out of Kansas City.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447