Justine Johnson Murders 3 YR Old Daughter

Justine Johnson is a killer from Michigan who would murder her three year old daughter Sutton Mosser

According to court documents Justine Johnson would tell police that she was hallucinating and that SpongeBob Squarepants told her to kill her three year old daughter Sutton M. Mosser. Johnson would fatally stab the three year old girl.

Prosecutors would later say that Justine Johnson was withdrawaling from heroin and used cocaine on the day of the murder

Justine Johnson would be arrested, plead guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole

Justine Johnson Now

MDOC Number:


SID Number:




Racial Identification:









5′ 8″


230 lbs.

Date of Birth:

04/25/1999  (24)

Current Status:


Earliest Release Date:


Assigned Location:

Huron Valley Complex/Women’s

Maximum Discharge Date:


Justine Johnson Videos

Justine Johnson Case

Having pleaded guilty to brutally stabbing her 3-year-old daughter to death at the behest of a vision of SpongeBob SquarePants, an Iosco County mother’s prison sentence was a foregone conclusion: life without the possibility of parole.

The mother in question, 23-year-old Justine M. Johnson, was accepting of the sentence, saying she wanted justice for her daughter. Even so, she hedged and implied doubt in her own culpability, something which dismayed the presiding judge.

Wearing glasses and with her hair in braids, a jumpsuit-clad Johnson on Monday, March 27, appeared before Iosco County Circuit Judge David C. Riffel for sentencing. Johnson in February pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder and first-degree child abuse in connection with the homicide of her daughter, Sutton M. Mosser. Sutton turned 3 just two days before her death on Sept. 16, 2021.

Johnson told the judge that at age 13, she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression. By September 2021, she had been without prescription mental health medication for a year, during which time she abused heroin and methamphetamine.

She began experiencing hallucinations and did not realize Sutton was in her care on Sept. 16, she said.

“I do not remember her being there, or how long she was there,” she said. “I also don’t remember details of her death.”

After learning from police she had killed Sutton, Johnson spent the next four months enduring hallucinations until medication and treatment stabilized her, she continued.

“I spent one year and eight months in therapy helping me cope with the death of my daughter, dealing with my mental illness, and will continue (to do so) in prison,” she said.

Saying she is full of remorse, Johnson added she wishes she could trade places with Sutton. She then outlined the reasons she pleaded guilty.

“First, I trust the police department has investigated the event to their best,” she said. “Second, I lost my child and as any mother would want justice, I also want justice for Sutton. If it was me who committed this murder, I expect to be punished as any other person would be. It is what’s fair for her. I apologize to my daughter, my family, her mother, and to this court for my crime.”

Johnson thanked her family for their forgiveness and continuing love and support.

“Finally, I would like to ask the media to respect our family’s privacy,” she said. “If you feel like it’s necessary to write about my little girl, please do so with the grace and respect she deserves. I pray that she is in God’s hands, that she has forgiven me, and that we will be reunited again.

“I love you, Sutton Marie.”

Iosco County Prosecutor James A. Bacarella spoke to the horror he saw when visiting the crime scene inside Johnson’s family home in the 5400 block of Cedar Lake Road in Oscoda Township on Sept. 17, 2021.

“What I saw was something I’d never imagine I would see in over 30 years as an attorney,” he said. “It was something truly insidious. It’s difficult for me to imagine, first off, how anybody could murder a child, a toddler, a 3-year-old. But for its mother to murder it, it’s just beyond what I can comprehend.”

There was overwhelming evidence of Johnson’s guilt, including fingerprints, DNA, and blood spatter. He added that from the spatter patterns, it was clear Sutton fought for her life.

“Instead, her mother chose to stab her 17 times,” he said. “I don’t know you can reconcile with that. I don’t know how you can recover from that. I don’t know a way any person could be reformed from that. The most vulnerable of lives was entrusted to this mother and then brutally murdered by her.”

Judge Riffel said such homicides rarely occur in his jurisdiction, adding such grisly occurrences are not something one can easily process. He then said he was concerned by Johnson saying “if it was me” who murdered Sutton.

“I don’t know how she could be questioning now if she was the one who committed this crime,” he said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to say much more.”

In addition to sentencing Johnson to life without parole on her murder conviction, Riffel also imposed a concurrent term of 18.75 to 50 years on the child abuse count. He gave Johnson credit for 556 days already served.

In a February 2022 preliminary examination, Ryan Eberline, an investigator with CPS, testified she interviewed Johnson in the Iosco County Jail on Oct. 1. Johnson told Eberline she didn’t remember the specifics of Sutton’s death, but said she was experiencing hallucinations from heroin withdrawal and hadn’t slept for about two weeks prior.

“She was getting hallucinations from the TV that had instructed her to take her daughter’s life or they would kill her,” Eberline said. “It was SpongeBob who was saying these things on the TV. If she didn’t do what she did to her daughter they would kill her. She said she was afraid for her life and she had lost her mind.”

During the same hearing, Johnson’s brother Knesley Johnson Jr. testified that in the fall of 2021, he, his sister, parents, brother, and niece were living at a home in the 5400 block of Cedar Lake Road in Oscoda Township.

About 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 16, Knesley Johnson left for work, having a brief conversation with his sister beforehand. He said there was nothing unusual about her or his niece. When he left, Sutton was in her mother’s care, he said.

Knesley Johnson came home about 3:30 or 4 a.m. on Sept. 17. As he was taking off his shoes to get ready for bed, he asked his younger brother where their sister and Sutton were. The brother went to the back of their house and said he saw a human child’s foot sticking out of a bag, Knesley Johnson testified.

He said he did not know where his sister was at the time.

Justine Johnson’s 17-year-old brother — who is not being named due to his age—testified he woke up about 6 p.m. on Sept. 16 and went to a bathroom, where he encountered his sister.

“I went into the bathroom and it looked like (Justine Johnson) was doing lines,” he said, using a colloquial term for snorting drugs in powdered form. “As soon as I went to walk in, she brushed it away. But I’m not sure.”

The teen said he asked his sister where Sutton was.

“She said, ‘Mind your own [expletive]ing business.’ But that’s like her normal response,” he testified.

The witness said he did not look for Sutton in the house. Shortly thereafter, Justine Johnson exited the house to approach a red vehicle that had stopped at a store across the street, he said. She was not there long before returning to the house, he said.

The witness said he took a shower and once he finished, his sister was gone. He left shortly thereafter to go to the beach, returning about 10 p.m., he said.

Neither his sister nor his niece were home when he returned.

When Knesley Johnson arrived home a few hours later, the teen said he went to a back room of their house and found a garbage bag.

“There was like a foot sticking out of the bag,” he said. “I ran up and told Knesley, ‘There’s a foot in a bag.’ He didn’t believe me. He thought I was joking.”

The brothers together looked at the bag, then called an uncle, the teen testified.

Oscoda Township Police Officer Gerald Soboleski testified he responded to the Johnson family home in the early hours of Sept. 17. Upon arrival, he parked at the end of the residence’s driveway, where he was greeted by Johnson’s brothers and an uncle.

“Knesley started telling me about how he came home from work on this day and looked throughout the house for his sister and niece and was unable to locate them,” the officer testified. “At that point, he said, ‘And then we found this,’ referring to what we later found was the human foot.”

Soboleski went to a back room of the house, where he found a circular blue tote with two garbage bags stocked on top. Protruding from one of the bags was a small child’s foot, Soboleski said.

“I felt the bottom of the child’s foot. It was cold to the touch, and EMS was called to the scene,” he said. Soboleski secured the scene and called a detective sergeant. A medical examiner also responded to scene, he said

Shane Hill, a forensic scientist with the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in Bridgeport, said he and three fellow team members went to the crime scene on Sept. 17 to process it for evidence and take photographs. The investigators found several bloodstains on a hallway closet door, on living room couches, and on items in a bedroom.

They also confiscated three knives found in a bedroom, Hill said.

Inside the black trash bag within the blue tote, Sutton’s body was wrapped in a comforter. A pair of jeans were also in the bag, while a black sweatshirt was under the bag at the bottom of the tote, Hill said.

The jeans tested positive for blood, Hill said. Investigators were also alerted to a potential secondary site within an apartment complex, where numerous other items were seized that bore apparent blood stains, Hill said.

Based on the evidence, Hill said Sutton was most likely killed inside the Johnson family home.

Sgt. Kenneth Binder, a latent print technician with the Michigan State Police Crime Lab, testified there were 13 finger- and palmprints recovered from the bag containing Sutton’s body. All 13 prints were Justine Johnson’s, Binder said.

No other identifiable prints were recovered from the bag, Binder said. A bloody palmprint recovered from a wall in the house came from Sutton, Binder added.

Pathologist Dr. Jaya L. Sankaran, the Iosco County medical examiner, testified she went to the Cedar Lake Road scene and assisted in removing Sutton’s body. She gave the body a preliminary examination and noted stab wounds to Sutton’s neck, chest, and abdomen, with a gaping wound exposing a portion of the small intestine, Sankaran said.

Oscoda Township Police Officer Danny Gallahar testified he had compiled a timeline of the comings-and-goings at the Johnson house on Sept. 16 based on nearby businesses’ surveillance camera footage.

At 3:23 p.m., Justine Johnson exited the Cedar Lake Road home, crossed the street to a former cleaning business, sat down and put her head in her hands, Gallahar said. Johnson was wearing a black sweatshirt and blue jeans as she paced around outside. Judging by the design on it, it appeared the sweatshirt was the same one later found in the blue tote with Sutton’s body, Gallahar said.

Justine Johnson returned to the home at 3:46 p.m., Gallahar said. At 3:55 p.m., she again exited the house and began walking southbound along the shoulder of Cedar Lake Road.

A vehicle appeared to drop off Justine Johnson at her home at 6:06 p.m., Gallahar said. Police later identified the driver of this vehicle, who said he had picked Johnson up in town. The driver later described Johnson’s demeanor as being in a confused and possibly drug-addled state, Gallahar said.

About an hour later, Justine Johnson again left the house, wearing different clothing than she had on before. At 7:24 p.m., she walked across the street and approached a maroon SUV, though she did not make contact with any occupants, the officer said.

None of the video footage showed Sutton with her mother, Gallaher said.

Justine Johnson left the home again at 7:37 p.m. The video footage did not show anyone else entering or exiting the house until Johnson’s younger brother left to go to the beach.


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