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Missing toddler found dead; rideshare driver charged in case says child sold for $10K

PENN HILLS, Penn. — The body of missing toddler Nalani Johnson was found in western Pennsylvania, according to investigators.

An Amber Alert was issued Saturday, Aug. 31 when police said Johnson was abducted, and crews had been searching for her since.

Investigators said Johnson’s body was discovered in Pine Ridge Park in Burrell Township, Indiana County Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 3, according to WNEP.

A woman was taken into custody in the case after the 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.

Paul 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, a woman with whom Johnson was in the beginning of an “intermittent romantic relationship” with, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said at a press conference Tuesday.

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 that 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 she is named Nalani.

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

Police arrested driver Sharena Nancy, 25, in the vehicle during a traffic stop around 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 along US Route 22 to meet the woman, the complaint said.

Nancy said she was told the woman would then “flag” her down and Nancy was to turn over the toddler, the complaint said.

Nancy told detectives 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 over to a woman standing next to the car and then driving off. Nancy told police 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 had no evidence to corroborate Nancy’s version of events, adding that Johnson and his family had been cooperative with the ongoing investigation.

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

CNN was unable to identify or reach an attorney for Nancy.

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

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

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

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