Toddler confined to chair for hours dies, Florida woman charged

Posted at 8:02 AM, June 22, 2023

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (Court TV/Scripps News Tampa) — A Florida woman is facing charges after a 2-year-old in her care died from severe neglect, according to authorities.

Rebecca Louise Gussage-Johnston, 24, was initially arrested for aggravated child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and child neglect on May 19.

Rebecca Louise Gussage-Johnston mugshot

This May 2023 booking photo provided by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office shows Rebecca Louise Gussage-Johnston. (HCSO)

On June 16, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced an additional charge of first-degree murder while engaged in aggravated child abuse after a medical examiner determined the child died from severe neglect.

Authorities said a concerned family member of the victim called 911 on May 19, and the child was pronounced dead on the scene.

An investigation revealed the child suffered injuries to several parts of their body. Gussage-Johnston allegedly admitted to “punishing the child the day before for ‘acting out’ by confining them to a chair for an extended period of time without any care or attention.”

Authorities added that Gussage-Johnston failed to seek medical assistance for the child for nearly 24 hours before police were contacted.

“The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has unrelenting fervor in our pursuit of justice for innocent children hurt by criminals,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “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.”

Authorities didn’t release information on the victim or the relationship between Gussage-Johnston and the victim.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Anyone with additional information regarding the case can contact HCSO at 813-247-8200.

Scripps News Tampa, an E.W. Scripps Company, contributed to this report.