PITTSBURGH — Authorities say the death of a toddler who reportedly was kidnapped near Pittsburgh last weekend has been ruled a homicide.
But a cause of death for Nalani Johnson won’t be determined until officials review the toddler’s medical records and more tests are completed.
Nalani, who was to turn 2 this month, was found Tuesday in a park about 37 miles east of Penn Hills township, where authorities allege the girl was kidnapped Saturday evening. There were no visible signs of trauma.
Sharena Islam Nancy, 25, who authorities say had been romantically involved with the child’s father, remains in custody in Allegheny County. She is charged with kidnapping of a minor, custodial interference and concealment of the whereabouts of a child, all felonies.
No one has been charged in Nalani’s death.
Nancy, who is accused of driving off with Nalani as her father tried to get her and her car seat out of the vehicle, had an argument in the vehicle before she drove off, Allegheny County authorities said. Nancy and Nalani Johnson’s father met on social media and were “in the beginnings of an intermittent romantic relationship,” said Indiana County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough.
Nancy works as a ride-hailing driver, but she had spent several hours with the father, a friend of his and the child before the alleged kidnapping in Penn Hills, McDonough said.
“This was not an arbitrary Uber/Lyft — they were known to each other,” he said.
Police said Monday the child’s father told investigators that he and a friend were riding in a car driven by Nancy on Saturday evening. When he got out of the car and was moving to get the child out of her car seat, Nancy drove off, he alleged. Authorities now say an argument that began between the friend and Nancy prompted the two men to get out of the car.
Nancy alleged she turned the child over to a woman in a silver sport utility vehicle during a roadside rendezvous on the instructions of the father, who she alleged had “sold” the toddler, but McDonough said investigators “have nothing to corroborate or suggest that that version of events is correct.”
“We have a situation where we have two versions of events at the same time, similar versions up to certain point in time during the day and then the versions differ dramatically, so a lot of our investigative efforts are trying to corroborate one version or the other,” McDonough said. — (AP)