The story of Shannon Johnson, accused of letting her infant son drown while she played a Facebook game, has been reported in such far-flung locations as Australia and China because her act was such a crime of the times. And she'll have lots of opportunities to mull it over: She's been sentenced to ten years in jail.
According to Johnson's arrest affidavit, on view below, she fed her baby, thirteen-month-old Joseph, one fateful morning last September, then put him in the bath, the water level of which "may have been a little higher than usual." That should have been a clue for her to stay close -- but instead, she went to her computer, played Cafe World on Facebook, checked a friend's status and shared some videos.
During her first ten minutes of tackling these important chores, Johnson said she heard her son playing. But then, there were three minutes or so of silence. By the time she finally checked on Joseph, he was "sideways with his face in the water."
Detectives subsequently asked her why in the hell she'd left the child alone in the tub -- a decision even she admitted was "so stupid." Her explanation? She "didn't want him to be known as a mama's boy."
Testimony at a trial covered by the Greeley Tribune revealed that Johnson's mother had told her just three days earlier not to leave Joseph in the tub unsupervised. Obviously, she didn't listen.
At her sentencing (preceded by her guilty plea for negligent child abuse ending in death last month), Johnson threw herself at the mercy of Judge Thomas Quammen, saying, "I know I made a huge mistake leaving him unattended, and for that I will always hate myself. There has been [sic] four infant-toddler drownings in Colorado, since January 1. Every time I hear of one, it's like rubbing salt into a wound. I want to reach out to people and want people to learn from my mistake, and I don't want others to walk a mile in my shoes."
If this admission was meant to soften Quammen's resolve, it failed. The sentencing guidelines noted by the Tribune called for between four and twelve years in stir, and she received a decade, plus five years of probation upon her release. The judge was clearly unhappy about the unheeded warning -- but he also said, "I heard very little about Joseph. You may have lost your son, and I know you are grieving, and you're going to grieve a long time. But Joseph lost his life. And your loss pales in comparison to Joseph's loss... We're missing the point. He was a human being that had a right to life. And you, as his mother, had a responsibility to make sure he got that chance. That was your responsibility."
Look below to take a larger look at Johnson's booking photo, as well as the aforementioned arrest affidavit.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Theodore Madrid allegedly drunk and high when he killed 2-year-old Caden Rodgers (47)."
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