'Precious Doe's' stepfather sentenced to life

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(CNN) -- The stepfather of a 3-year-old girl, known as Precious Doe after her body and severed head were discovered four years ago, was sentenced to life in prison without parole Thursday for killing the girl.

The child had apparently been killed three years before her body was found in a wooded area near Kansas City, Missouri.

Harrell Johnson, 29, was convicted last month of first-degree murder in the death of Erica Michelle Marie Green, as well as endangering the welfare of a child and abusing a child.

Sixteenth Circuit Judge John Torrence sentenced Johnson to four years and 25 years, respectively, for those convictions, ruling that those sentences will run consecutively to the life sentence, according to court spokeswoman Mary Jacobi. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty against Johnson.

The girl's mother, Michelle Johnson, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges last year and testified against her husband. She said he was high on drugs when he kicked Erica in the head and threw her to the floor because, prosecutors said, the girl did not want to go to bed.

Erica remained on the floor unresponsive for two days before she died, authorities said. Michelle Johnson said the two did not seek medical attention for the girl because both she and her husband had outstanding arrest warrants.

After Erica died, authorities said, Harrell Johnson cut off her head with hedge clippers and disposed of her body before the couple retrieved her head from a Dumpster and put it in the woods. The head, wrapped in a garbage bag, was found in April 2001 not far from where the body had been discovered a few days earlier.

Because authorities had no way of identifying the child, she was dubbed "Precious Doe." The case haunted Kansas City for years, and many residents were involved in attempts to discover her name and find those responsible for her death.

In May 2005, a man who said he had not seen his granddaughter for several years responded to a newspaper ad placed by Alonzo Washington, a Kansas City-based community activist and missing-child advocate.

The man provided photos he said were of the child and information about her parents, and that material led to the Johnsons' detention on unrelated charges in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where they had moved.

During questioning, Michelle Johnson told police that she was Erica's mother and that the child had been killed while the family was living in Kansas City.