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Name Now Marks Girl’s Grave

From Associated Press

A slain little girl, long known only as Precious Doe, was reburied Thursday and mourned by the residents and investigators who kept the search for her family and her killers alive for years.

The marble grave marker in a city cemetery bears her picture and, more important, her name, Erica Michelle Marie Green. She wasn’t quite 4 years old when she was killed.

“This time she has her identity,” said police Sgt. David Bernard, who led the investigation and helped carry her small white casket.

Erica’s decapitated body was found in a park in April 2001, and her head was found days later. Neighbors came to call her Precious Doe. She wasn’t identified until this spring, when her mother and stepfather were charged with murder.

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Hundreds gathered for her first funeral, when Erica’s identity was still unknown. A simple stone marked her grave.

The body was exhumed in 2003 so a lifelike bust could be made to show how her face might have looked.

Thursday’s reburial, in the same plot, was attended by fewer people, who lay flowers, balloons and stuffed animals at the grave.

“Erica tragically experienced death in the early morning of life. But this was not God’s will ... but the will of wrong,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, whose district includes the neighborhood. Cleaver, also a minister, officiated at the burial.

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Among the mourners was Betty Brown, a neighbor who had cared for Erica in Oklahoma before the girl’s family moved to Kansas City.

“It was hard when I didn’t know where she was,” Brown said. “I always was hoping one day I’d see her again. I wasn’t thinking about seeing her in heaven.”

Erica’s mother, Michelle M. Johnson, 30, of Muskogee, Okla., was charged with second-degree murder, and the girl’s stepfather, Harrell Johnson, 25, was charged with first-degree murder.


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