KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A judge entered not-guilty pleas Tuesday for the mother and stepfather charged with murdering a little girl found beheaded in Kansas City four years ago.
Michelle M. Johnson (search), 30, and Harrell Johnson, 25, both of Muskogee, Okla., made their first court appearance in Missouri in the slaying of Erica Michelle Marie Green (search). The couple were returned to the state earlier in the day from an Oklahoma jail.
Erica had been known only as Precious Doe (search) until a tipster came forward and enabled police to identify her and arrest the couple last week.
She was almost 4 when her headless body was found in a park in 2001. Days later, her head was found nearby, wrapped in a trash bag.
Police said Harrell Johnson (search) told authorities that he was under the influence of alcohol and PCP when he became angry with Erica after she refused to go to bed, grabbed her, kicked her and threw her to the ground, leaving her unconscious.
After she died, he used hedge clippers to cut off her head, police said.
More than a dozen neighbors and others who had spent years searching for clues to the little girl's identity attended the hearing Tuesday.
"You really want to see what kind of person could have done something like this, especially to their own child," said Marcie Williams of Kansas City.