PARRISH, Fla. - A woman who was behind bars for child abuse is now facing murder charges.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Rebecca Louise Gussage-Johnston, 24, was arrested on May 19 for aggravated child abuse resulting in great bodily harm and child neglect after a child died in her care.
Deputies say they were called to a home in the 10000 block of US Hwy. 301 to check on a two-year-old child who was reportedly in distress.
According to HCSO, despite deputies’ quick response, the child was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators say the child had injuries on several parts of their body and Gussage-Johnston admitted to punishing the child for allegedly ‘acting out’.
The child was confined to a chair for an extended period without receiving any care or attention from Gussage-Johnston, according to HCSO. Even though Gussage-Johnston had a working cell phone, investigators say she failed to seek medical help for nearly 24 hours. Instead, detectives say a concerned family member of the victim is the one who eventually called 911.
Once the medical examiner ruled that the child died from homicide due to severe neglect, Gussage-Johnston was charged with murder in the first degree while engaged in aggravated child abuse.
"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."
Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact HCSO at 813-247-8200.
The case is still under investigation.