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Update: Mother Arrested on Murder Charge In Daughter's Death

A San Leandro woman and her 8-year-old severely disabled daughter were found unconscious in a running car in their garage.

Police said Sunday that the death of an 8-year-old girl who was severely mentally and physically disabled was an attempted murder-suicide.

The mother, Christel "Jenny" Johnson, 53, was arrested Sunday on a charge of murder.

A caregiver discovered Johnson and her daughter Lylah, who suffered from cerebral palsy, on Friday afternoon inside a van in the family's garage.

The car engine was running at the time and a hose was hooked from the tailpipe into the vehicle, according to Lt. Jeff Tudor, spokesman for the San Leandro Police Department.

The girl was taken to Children's Hospital in Oakland, where she was pronounced dead. The mother was taken to Eden Medical Center. She survived and is currently in police custody. 

Lylah Johnson was severely mentally and physically disabled, neighbors said. She could not walk or speak and had trouble breathing. She and her mother lived alone on the corner of Leonard Drive and Maria Drive, near I-880 and Davis Street. 

One neighbor, who seemed to know the family well but did not want to be identified, said the girl has had severe cerebral palsy since birth. She required constant care, neighbors said, and Johnson employed caregivers and physical therapists to help her out at home. 

Several neighbors described Johnson as a loving mother and said they couldn't imagine she would want to harm her daughter.

"That's the last thing I would think," said a woman who lives next door to the Johnsons. 

"She really loved her daughter," said another neighbor.

Despite their belief that Johnson was devoted to her daughter, neighbors indicated that caring for the girl was stressful.

"She was angry at the world for her life being the way it was," said one neighbor, who said Johnson would often come over to vent her frustrations. "She was overwhelmed," the neighbor said. 

Johnson obsessed over having the absolute best care for her daughter, said the neighbor, who works with disabled children at a local school. She was meticulous about the girl's dress and hygiene, she said.

Johnson hired and fired caregivers often, neighbors said, and frequently called the police for perceived infractions by caregivers, and even by neighbors.

"She would call the police on everybody," Johnson's next-door neighbor said. 

When the same neighbor saw the police cars arrive on Friday afternoon, she assumed it was just another of Johnson's problems with her employees, she said.

She and other neighbors said the police had been to the house just days earlier. 

Neighbors said besides her daughter's caregivers and health specialists, Johnson also employed people to keep house and maintain the yard. 

But she appeared to have little contact with family members, neighbors said. Two neighbors said they thought Laila's father lived in town but had never seen him at the house. 

Neighbors said they tried to be nice to Johnson and her daughter but were afraid to help out too much, or go over to the house, for fear of doing something that would anger Johnson. 

One described Laila as a "precious baby, a beautiful baby."

"We just loved her, that's the hardest part," the neighbor said.  

The case marks the third homicide in San Leandro this year.

Christel Johnson June 28, 2012 at 06:32 AM
I did not kill my child. Lylah was dying. She was diagnosed by three different health practitioners. I did all I could for my child. My love for her would never allow me to harm or hurt her. I wanted to go home to our heavenly father with her. I promised to never leave her. I kept my promise. God knows, Lylah knows and I know. I wish people would not talk or write about things they don't know anything about. My child suffered severe brain damage at birth due to malpractice. The doctors did not have to go to jail.... Her father, other people in the community, friends and my family in Germany refuse to help with Lylah's care... they did not have to go to jail.... I was 3 days uncouncious, when I came to consciousness... I was told that I have to go to jail for "murder" ... Lylah is in heaven now, not suffering anymore - that is my only "balm"... I miss her like crazy, my love for her will never die! Please don't judge people or situations... What the DA says about me or the media writes is not true at all. Lylah's mom
Bryan ayers October 09, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Any updates on this lady? Are charges still pending? I just sen her in town today...
Christel Johnson December 11, 2012 at 05:53 PM
this lady....Here I am.... I am standing proud. I have not done a crime... My crime was loving my child. after the cruzified Jesus... they still do it today!!!! Read my comment (Christel Johnson) and I dare you to judge me!!!!!!
Caron Bryan May 07, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Please let me know the outcome of the trial. I . Feel your pain Christel.
The Truth May 10, 2013 at 07:08 AM
She was convicted of 2nd degree murder and rightfully so (although I believe she deserved first degree murder). This woman was living the American dream from a settlement awarded to her because of some sort of malpractice related to her daughter's birth. She paid people to care for her daughter so she could prowl the web for men, go on spa days regularly and write individuals on death row. Cristel is definitely abnormal but by no means is so crazy that she doesn't know what she did. She was "sane" enough to order her daughter's supplies and schedule her appointments, that means she was sane enough to understand the consequences associated with murdering your daughter because Christel's "life" as she knew it was be being threatened. She couldn't care for lylah herself and pulled the lowest of all low acts, straight up That's the truth and Christel knows it. I feel sorry for her but feel more sorry for Lylah. Prison is no place for a child murderer, "Big Mama and company have something for her where she is going im sure. RIP Lylah.

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