Mother sentenced, father pleads guilty to death of daughter

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — A Dearborn couple were back in court for a sentencing and a pre-trial hearing in the drowning death of their 2-year-old daughter after she was found unresponsive in a neighbor’s swimming pool on June 3, 2016.

The father, James Johnson, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of child abuse during a Jan. 27 pre-trial in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway.

The mother, Amber Johnson, failed to appear in court the same day for her sentencing so a warrant for her arrest was issued and Dearborn police picked her up.

She explained why she did not attend during her sentencing before Hathaway Feb. 3.

“I was trying to get all of the things I needed to be in jail,” she said. “I recently just got a job and I had to prove my identity. A whole bunch of just messed up things happened that I had to try and do and I was actually downtown trying to do it. It took a long time.”

Amber Johnson also said she was trying to get her proof of employment for a work release program, but since she could not present the needed paperwork Hathaway denied the program option.

Her charges included manslaughter and two counts of child abuse along with violation of probation and failure to appear.

She was sentenced to 11 months in jail with no early release and three years probation.

After she is released she will remain under court supervision for almost 36 months and cannot take or be in the possession of alcohol, drugs and any other controlled substance.

Hathaway said Amber Johnson’s probation will include an abuse assessment, periodic drug and alcohol testing, and she is required to take parenting classes.

When asked if she would like to say anything relating to the drowning, she apologized.

“I just want to apologize to my other kids for having to lose their sibling, for me not being a good parent,” Johnson said. “It’s not fair to them that they have to suffer.”

James Johnson will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Feb. 24 before Hathaway.

Two-year-old Monica Johnson and her 3-year-old brother were able to exit their house in the 2600 block of Boldt Street about 10:30 a.m. while their parents were sleeping.

Both children climbed a chain link fence to enter the backyard of their neighbor who had a swimming pool.

The neighbor saw Monica’s body in the pool and called police to the house as she attempted CPR. Officers and first responders arrived and found Monica unresponsive.

She was transported to a local hospital in critical condition and then died just after 11 a.m. June 4. She was uninjured.

(Zeinab Najm can be reached at