Mom Charged With Murder After Allegedly Strapping Toddler To Booster Seat For 15 Hours

[Photo by OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP via Getty Images]

Julianna Frieman Contributor
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A Tampa woman was charged with murder after she allegedly strapped her son into a booster seat for 15 hours and watched him die, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Rebecca Gussage-Johnston faced a new charge June 15 of first-degree murder while engaged in aggravated child abuse. She was initially charged with aggravated child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and child neglect in May, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced. The suspect was held at Falkenburg Road Jail after her June 16 arrest.

The medical examiner’s office concluded the two-year-old victim’s death was a homicide caused by severe neglect, the outlet reported.

The boy was reportedly found unresponsive in a bassinet under a blanket May 19 by his aunt, according to a search warrant. She was asked to check on the child in the mobile RV around 8 p.m. by his father only to find the child dead. Deputies were called to the scene, according to the outlet.

Gussage-Johnston admitted to police she punished her son for screaming and “acting out” by strapping him in a table booster seat. She said the boy became unresponsive around 2 p.m., the outlet reported. (RELATED: Police Charged Daycare Owner After Mother Allegedly Finds Her Child Dead At Pick-Up)

The 24-year-old suspect last saw her son sleeping upright in the booster seat at midnight May 19, according to the affidavit. She found the seat flipped over and her son laying on his side in the late morning.

Gussage-Johnston also said she saw her son have seizures and shake uncontrollably before he died in her arms, according to the affidavit.

The mother had a working phone during the incident, but she did not call police, according to the outlet.

Investigators found several injuries on the boy’s body. He had head trauma, a bruise on his right thigh and bruising on his extremities. He was also covered in vomit and feces, the outlet reported.

The victim’s father told police he purchased the mobile RV last year. The mother, the two-year-old boy and his other siblings reportedly lived in the vehicle. The father did not live in the mobile RV, claiming he did not see his son for as long as six or seven months before the alleged murder.

The mother “always keeps the children locked in the mobile RV,” the father said.

“The Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office has unrelenting fervor in our pursuit of justice for innocent children hurt by criminals,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “It is truly heart-wrenching to witness such senseless and preventable acts of violence against a small, innocent child. The tenacity of our detectives has allowed us to ensure this woman faces the consequences of her brutal actions.”