2-year-old strapped to booster seat for 15 hours dies, Florida cops say. Mom charged

A 2-year-old boy died after he was strapped to a chair as punishment, Florida officials say. Now, his mother is charged with murder.

Hillsborough County deputies said they responded to reports of a toddler in distress on May 19 and found the 2-year-old with various injuries. The child was pronounced dead at the scene.

The boy’s 24-year-old mother, Rebecca Louise Gussage-Johnston, told deputies she had punished the toddler for “acting out” the day before by strapping him to a booster seat, an arrest report said, according to Law & Crime. Gussage-Johnston put her son in the seat the evening of May 18 and left him there until about 11 a.m. the next day.

Gussage-Johnston found the toddler flipped over in the chair “suffer[ing] from seizures and shaking uncontrollably,” the morning of May 19, according to the arrest report, WKRG reported.

Deputies said Gussage-Johnston failed to call for help despite having a working cell phone, according to a June 15 news release from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Instead, a concerned family member called 911 to report the toddler’s injuries.

Gussage-Johnston was initially arrested May 19 and charged with aggravated child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and child neglect, the sheriff’s office said. After a medical examiner’s report revealed the toddler’s manner of death was homicide due to severe neglect, she was charged with first-degree murder while engaged in aggravated child abuse.

Deputies said Gussage-Johnston remains in custody.

Hillsborough County is about 10 miles east of Tampa.

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