Missing toddler allegedly sold by driver found dead in western Pennsylvania

BURRELL TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The body of missing 2-year-old Nalani Johnson has been found in western Pennsylvania, according to investigators.

An Amber Alert was issued Saturday when police say Johnson was abducted, and crews had been searching for her since.

Investigators say Johnson’s body was discovered in Pine Ridge Park in Burrell Township, Indiana County, on Tuesday afternoon, according to WNEP.

A woman is in custody in the case after Nalani’s father, Paul Johnson, said a driver abducted his daughter on Saturday evening in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, according to police documents and a news release.

Johnson said he was riding in a car with Lyft and Uber stickers with his daughter and two friends, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Allegheny County police.

The driver of the car was Sharena Nancy, whom Johnson was in the beginning of an “intermittent romantic relationship” with, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said.

The couple became acquainted over social media in the past few months and spent several hours together with Johnson’s daughter and another friend on Saturday before an argument ensued while the woman was driving, McDonough said.

While police did not elaborate on the details of the argument, McDonough said it was significant enough that Johnson and his other friend decided to exit the car.

Johnson said when he got out of the car and went to get his daughter out of the car seat, the driver drove away with the toddler, the complaint said.

The complaint didn’t identify the child, but a police news release said it was Nalani.

Johnson told detectives he tried calling the Nancy’s cellphone multiple times, but she never picked up, so he called 911 about 5 p.m. EDT.

Police arrested Nancy, 25, in the vehicle during a traffic stop about 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 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 that 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 to a woman standing next to the car and then driving off.

Nancy told police that 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 Johnson and his family have been cooperative with the ongoing investigation.

Nancy, who is being held without bail at the Allegheny County jail, was arraigned Monday after being charged with kidnapping of a minor, interference with custody of children and concealment of whereabouts of a child. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 16.

Nalani’s grandmother, Taji Walsh, told KDKA that Nancy’s account of the events is not true. Her son, whom she calls “P.J.,” is Nalani’s father.

“If the police felt that P.J. was in any way involved, he wouldn’t be walking freely, he’d be locked somewhere up like she is,” she said.

Dana Davis, a communications manager for Lyft, said while this incident did not happen on the Lyft platform, it has banned Nancy from driving with Lyft, adding that the allegations were “deeply disturbing.”

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