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A mother and great-grandmother in Ohio face various criminal charges after allegedly starving three young children nearly to death.
Hannah Johnson, 26, stands accused of six counts of endangering children and three counts of kidnapping; Dianna Johnson, 72, stands accused of three counts of endangering children, according to Hamilton County court records reviewed by Law&Crime.
The two women were arrested at a residence on Halsey Avenue in the Sedamsville neighborhood of Cincinnati – a small but historically significant community located among the western reaches of the city along the Ohio River — earlier this month.
The underlying incidents began in April 2016, court documents allege. Several alleged incidents occurred again in June 2017, April 2019, and June of this year. Both defendants were indicted on Sept. 7. Hannah Johnson was arrested a week later, according to court records. Her paternal grandmother was arrested the next day.
The results of the allegedly combined neglect and starvation regime at the house on Halsey were the “near-fatalities” of children aged 4, 6, and 7, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office said in comments reported by Newport, Kentucky-based Fox affiliate WXIX – which serves the broader Cincinnati metropolitan area.
Cincinnati police initially arrived at the residence in response to a suspicious odor, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told the TV station. Someone told the officers the smell was from a dead raccoon under the porch. Officers then left without seeing the children. But the sudden appearance of law enforcement seemingly spooked the children’s mother. Hannah Johnson allegedly took all three children to her mother’s in Tennessee.
The children’s grandmother immediately took stock of the state the trio were in, WXIX reports, citing the prosecutor’s office. So, she drove them straight to a hospital. There, medical staff determined the children were severely malnourished. The children will need to spend months in the hospital to recuperate, according to law enforcement.
According to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, each child weighed less than 30 pounds.
In comments to Cincinnati-based NBC affiliate WLWT, police said one other child also lived in the house with the mother and great-grandmother – but the fourth child was healthy.
“Now, those kids never saw the light of day,” a neighbor told WXIX earlier this month. “Like, they were, like, ghost white because they’ve never seen sun since they were born.”
Another neighbor said the children never spoke or reacted, even when she waved at them, describing them as having “no emotion at all.”
Other neighbors reportedly expressed similar comments to WLWT.
“The cop had told my husband that they were – that one of the kids was being starved,” the first neighbor said to WXIX. “And that surprised me because I see her take groceries in all the time. I just wish, when her husband died, I just wish she would have asked for help because we were here for her. I always told her if she needed anything, let me know.”
Law&Crime repeatedly reached out to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office and Cincinnati Police Department for additional details on this story, but no substantive responses were forthcoming.
Hannah Johnson appeared in court for her arraignment on Friday. Her bond was set at 10% of $250,000. She is currently detained in the Hamilton County Detention Center. Dianna Johnson was arraigned on Tuesday. Her bond was set at 10% of $30,000. She is no longer in custody, jail records show.
Both defendants have been assigned public defenders. Hannah Johnson is next slated to appear in court on Sept. 28.
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