Many say that the worst thing that can happen to a parent is to lose their child. Well, that worst happened on Saturday evening to Paul Johnson after a rideshare driver abducted his daughter, according to police documents. Now, a woman is in custody but the toddler is still missing.
The child reportedly was sold for $10,000 according to police reports.
When he got out of the car to get his daughter out of the car seat, the driver drove away with the toddler, according to a criminal complaint that was filed by the Allegheny County police in Pennsylvania. While the complaint didn’t identify the child, the police news release said she is named Nalani.
According to police reports, the father, Paul Johnson, told detectives he tried calling the driver’s cellphone numerous times but she never answered. After trying to call the driver, he called 911 at 5 p.m. eastern time. A couple of hours after, police arrest the woman, named Sharena Nancy, 25, in the vehicle during a traffic stop around 7:30 p.m. eastern time. However, they did not find the child inside, the police complaint said.
The driver allegedly told detectives that the father of the toddler “sold the child to an individual for $10,000 and asked her to complete the dropoff.”
According to CNN, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said during a press conference on Tuesday that Nancy, the driver of the car, was a woman “with whom Johnson was in the beginning of an ‘intermittent romantic relationship.'”
McDonough said the couple became close over social media in the past few months and all had previously spent time together with Johnson’s daughter. According to police reports, Nancy and Johnson had allegedly gotten into an argument on Saturday but they didn’t elaborate on the details of the argument. But once Johnson and his daughter exited the car, that’s when the driver drove away with the toddler.
Now, authorities and the toddler’s family members are asking the public to help them locate the child and to contact them with any tips.
“We miss Nalani. We want her home. If anyone has any info — it doesn’t matter how big or small — please call into the tip line,” Nalani’s grandmother, Taji Walsh, said during the Tuesday press conference, according to CNN.
Further, the driver told authorities that Johnson 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.” She said the woman in question would “flag” her down and Nancy would then be advised to turn over the toddler.
Nancy also told detectives involved with the case that everything had gone according to the alleged plan and she passed the toddler along with the car seat over to a woman and then she drove off. She said she also noticed a second woman inside the SUV that drove off with the toddler. But Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said during the press conference on Tuesday that they have no evidence to corroborate Nancy’s version of the events.
Nalani’s grandmother also told CNN affiliate KDKA, that the driver’s account of the events is completely false.
“If the police felt that PJ was in any way involved, he wouldn’t be walking free, he’d be locked somewhere up like she is,” Nalani’s grandmother said to CNN.
The driver is currently being held in jail without bail at the Allegheny County Jail. According to ABC 15 Arizona, she was arraigned on Monday and charged with kidnapping of a minor.
So far, she has also been charged with interference with custody of children and concealment of whereabouts of a child. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 16.
Media outlets were unable to identify or reach out to an attorney for Nancy. Representatives of Uber also did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. Dana Davis, a communications manager for Lyft, told CNN that while the incident did not happen on the Lyft platform, they have still banned Nancy from driving with the rideshare company, and they also said that the allegations made against her were “deeply disturbing.”
Nalani, the kidnapped toddler, is about 23 months old, with her second birthday on September 15. According to CNN, she’s about 3 feet tall and weighs about 30 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.
The body of the 23-month-old toddler was found Tuesday at a park in Indiana County. As of this report, authorities have not released any information on whether or not Nancy is now a suspect in the child’s death.