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Dearborn mother sentenced in daughter's drowning

Father pleads guilty to manslaughter, two counts of child abuse

DEARBORN, Mich. – A 23-year-old mother who failed to appear at her sentencing last week was in court Friday to face new charges and learn her original sentencing. 

Amber and James Johnson were sleeping June 3, 2016, when two small children wandered out of their home on Boldt Street in Dearborn, police said. Two-year-old Monica fell into a neighbor's pool and was found unresponsive. She died the next day.

"I wasn't up to take care of my children, and ultimately hurt one of my children, and I'm at fault for that," James Johnson said.

James Johnson pleaded guilty to manslaughter and two counts of child abuse, saying it was his fault his children got out of the house. He said the children got out of the house without their parents' knowledge one week before the incident.

After accepting James Johnson's guilty plea, the judge was ready to sentence his wife on a second-degree child abuse conviction, but Amber Johnson wasn't in court.

She was in court Friday morning to be arraigned on violation of probation and failure to appear charge and to be sentenced for the child abuse conviction.

The hearing

When asked about why she didn’t appear to her scheduled sentencing last week, Amber Johnson told the judge she was preparing for court and didn’t make it in time.

“A whole bunch of just messed up things happened that I had to try and do,” Amber Johnson said.

She told the judge she was getting proof of employment for a work-release program. When asked if she had documentation of a full-time job, she did not.

Amber Johnson was sentenced to 11 months in jail without early release and three years on probation. She must follow the recommendations of Child Protective Services and was ordered to take parenting classes.

“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 that they have to suffer.”

What happened

The toddler drowned on Boldt Street in Dearborn.

A neighbor noticed the girl in their swimming pool and pulled her from the water. She was unresponsive and the homeowner performed CPR. The girl was rushed to the hospital.

She died the next day.

According to the preliminary investigation, the girl and her 3-year-old brother exited their home while their parents were sleeping and climbed a chain link fence to gain access to the neighbor’s yard.

“This is a tragic situation for all the families involved,” Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said.

Neighbors say kids escaped home often

Neighbors in the area say police have been to the girl’s home before and the kids were often found wandering the neighborhood.

“Those kids seem to be escape artists, but I think they’re just negligent parents who are sleeping all the time,” neighbor Vincent Laing said.

Police confirmed that child protective services had been involved at some point.

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