Cops: Shanna Gossett Put Child in Closet for 2 Weeks, Hid Dying Body Under Bed

Shanna Gossett. Additional images and more below.
Shanna Gossett. Additional images and more below.
Grand Junction Police Department

Deaths caused by child abuse or neglect are among the most horrific crimes imaginable given the helplessness of the victims.

Consider the cases of Sydney White, who confessed to kicking an eleven-month-old to death, or Heather Jensen, whose two children, ages four and two, died in a running car while she was having sex nearby.

But even when placed in this context, the details about the death of three-year-old Bethannie Johnson contained in an arrest affidavit on view below are absolutely shocking.

Shanna Gossett, Bethanie's aunt and guardian, allegedly confessed to keeping the child in a closet for two weeks and hiding her body under her bed rather than seeking help after she pushed the girl's head into a wall.

At 7:42 a.m. on March 17, according to the document, Grand Junction Police Department officers and emergency personnel were called to a house on the 3000 block of North 14th Street on a report of a child who wasn't breathing.

Bethannie was found lying on the living room floor. She was warm to the touch but unresponsive. The child was pronounced dead shortly after 8 a.m.

A photo of Bethannie Johnson from her online obituary.
A photo of Bethannie Johnson from her online obituary.

Further examination showed that Bethannie had severe bruises on her head and abdomen — and when paramedics had tried suctioning her airway, they found what's described as "older blood." Nonetheless, she hadn't been dead for long; personnel estimated that she'd passed away during the night or early in the morning.

Gossett told investigators that Bethannie was her sister's child. After the girl was taken away from her biological mother, however, Gossett was awarded guardianship.

Two weeks earlier, Gossett claimed to have met with a person whose name is blocked out in the report, asking that this individual look after Bethannie for a while, as she needed a break; she said the girl had "reactive detachment disorder issues" that caused her to throw herself around, thereby explaining the bruises.

She added that this person returned Bethannie at 10 p.m. the previous night, and while the girl had a minor bloody nose, she seemed otherwise fine. She put her down to sleep in her crib — but when she got up the following morning, Bethannie was in such dire condition that Gossett called for help.

It didn't take long for this story to fall apart; the person who supposedly had been watching after Bethannie for the previous two weeks was in Texas, not Colorado, during that period of time. And in a later interview, Gossett told an entirely different story.

The home where the horrors took place.
The home where the horrors took place.
Google Maps

Because she was having trouble controlling Bethannie, Gossett said she strapped her into a high chair and put both the chair and the child into a closet. "She described concealing [Bethannie] there for two weeks," the affidavit states.

During that span, Gossett stressed that she'd continued to feed the girl and bathed her "periodically."

Then, on March 15, during one of the brief periods when Bethannie was freed from the closet, Gossett said the girl had thrown a temper tantrum. Gossett allegedly responded by pushing her down, "causing her to hit her head on a vacuum cleaner."

A moment later, Bethannie got up, but not for long. Gossett told police she pushed the girl's head into a wall, and the toddler stayed down this time — and stopped breathing.

CPR got her breathing going again, Gossett allowed, and the girl was moving her eyes. But instead of taking her to a hospital, Gossett said she hid the girl under her bed under around 10 p.m. — the time she'd mentioned in her earlier account — before moving her to the crib.

Prosecutors have charged Gossett with first-degree murder, child abuse resulting in death, second-degree kidnapping and false imprisonment. She is being held without bail in Mesa County jail.

Look below to see a larger version of Gossett's booking photo, followed by the arrest affidavit.

Shanna Gossett.
Shanna Gossett.
Grand Junction Police Department

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