Dead 2-year-old found covered in dried vomit and feces after mother left in booster seat overnight

Rebecca Louise Gussage-Johnston, 24, of Florida, was charged last Thursday with first-degree murder while engaged in aggravated child abuse for unlawfully restraining her two-year-old son in a booster seat overnight and for about fifteen hours as punishment for “acting out”. This was according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

The criminal information filed on June 6 listed Gussage-Johnston as accused of “willfully torturing, maliciously punishing, or willfully and unlawfully caging or did knowingly or willfully abuse and in so doing did cause great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement” to her son between May 18 and May 19, 2023.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office responded on the night of May 19 to a Tampa-area residence after receiving a call from Gussage-Johnston’s concerned relative. The deputies found the victim to be deceased and suffering from 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 admitted to having strapped the victim in a table booster seat to punish him for acting out and screaming on May 18, 2023 at approximately 2000 hours. The victim remained confined and strapped in the table booster seat from May 18, 2023 at 2000 hours until May 19, 2023 at either 1030 or 1100 hours. The defendant last observed the victim to be asleep in the table booster seat-sitting upright on May 19, 2023 around 0000 hours.

The defendant failed to supervise and provide the medical services needed to properly render aide to the victim for nearly 24 hours, even after she allegedly found the boy on the floor having a seizure the next morning. Gussage-Johnston watched her son suffer from seizures and shaking uncontrollably and watched him take his last breath and perish in her arms, instead of getting help right away.

The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the case a homicide caused by severe neglect, leading to the murder charges. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement: “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 represented by a public defender.