Last Thursday, Rebecca Louise Gussage-Johnston, 24, from Florida, was charged with first-degree murder while engaged in aggravated child abuse.
This was in connection to her unlawfully restraining her two-year-old son in a booster seat overnight and for around fifteen hours as punishment for “acting out”, as reported by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The criminal information filed on June 6 stated that Gussage-Johnston had “willfully tortured, maliciously punished, or willfully and unlawfully caged or did knowingly or willfully abuse” her son between May 18 and May 19, 2023.
In response to a call from one of Gussage-Johnston’s relatives, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrived at a Tampa-area residence on the night of May 19 and found the victim deceased with head trauma, a wound to the right thigh, and bruising throughout the extremity area. Additionally, the victim was covered in dried vomit and fecal matter.
Gussage-Johnston confessed to having restrained the victim in a table booster seat as punishment for his behavior on May 18, 2023 at around 8 pm, and the victim stayed in the seat from then until either 10:30 or 11 am on May 19. Gussage-Johnston remembered seeing her son asleep in the seat at midnight, but instead of getting help for him, she reportedly watched him suffer from seizures and shaking uncontrollably and then pass away in her arms.
The Medical Examiner’s Office declared this case a homicide caused by severe neglect, thus prompting the murder charges. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister remarked, “It is truly heart-wrenching to witness such senseless and preventable acts of violence targeting our youth. The tenacity of our detectives has allowed us to ensure this woman faces the consequences of her disgusting actions.” Gussage-Johnston is currently being represented by a public defender.