Nalani Johnson case: Doctors rule homicide in death of toddler allegedly kidnapped by Uber driver

A forensic pathologist has ruled that the death of Nalani Johnson, the 2-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped by an Uber driver on Saturday, was in fact a homicide.

The toddler, who authorities say showed no signs of trauma, was found in a park in Blairsville, Pa. on Tuesday — about 40 miles east from where she originally went missing. Her autopsy was performed on Wednesday.

Despite ruling that Nalani died by homicide, officials will avoid giving an official ruling until doctors can review her medical records and run more tests — a process that could take up to five weeks, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Authorities will continue to investigate the case in the meantime, including trying to determine whether Sharena Nancy, the 25-year-old Uber driver who allegedly kidnapped Nalani, acted alone. Nancy, who was arrested just a few hours after the incident, claims she was asked by Nalani's father, Paul Johnson, to take his daughter.

Nancy told police Johnson had arranged to sell Nalani for $10,000 and had asked her to deliver the toddler to an unnamed buyer.

Johnson refutes that claim, saying Nancy — a registered driver with both Uber and Lyft — sped off with his daughter in the car when they stopped to get out at an intersection. Investors have said there's currently nothing to support Nancy's story about Johnson trying to sell his daughter.

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Nalani Johnson: Photos from the Uber kidnapping case
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Nalani Johnson: Photos from the Uber kidnapping case
Taji Walsh, Nalani Johnson's grandmother, left, wipes away tears as Coleman McDonough, county police superintendent, center, and Chad Yarbrough, Federal Bureau of Investigation's assistant special agent, right, take questions from reporters during a briefing on the disappearance of her granddaughter Nalani Johnson, at Allegheny County Courthouse, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in Pittsburgh. Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said the body of Johnson, who was to turn 2 this month, was found in Pine Ridge Park in Blairsville, east of Penn Hills, where authorities allege the girl was kidnapped Saturday evening. (Michael M. Santiago/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty speaks at a press conference after the body of missing toddler Nalani Johnson was found in Pine Ridge Park in Blairsville, Pa., Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Dougherty said the body of Johnson, who was to turn 2 this month, was found in the park in Blairsville, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) east of Penn Hills, where authorities allege the girl was kidnapped Saturday evening. An autopsy was planned Wednesday to determine the cause and manner of death, he said. (Christian Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
First responders survey the scene where the body of missing toddler Nalani Johnson was found in Pine Ridge Park in Blairsville, Pa., on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said the body of Johnson, who was to turn 2 this month, was found in the park in Blairsville, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) east of Penn Hills, where authorities allege the girl was kidnapped Saturday evening. An autopsy was planned Wednesday to determine the cause and manner of death, he said. (Christian Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Nalani Johnson
A memorial to missing toddler Nalani Johnson, a 1-year-old from Penn Hills, who was reported missing over the weekend is displayed by a tree in Pine Ridge Park, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in Blairsville, Pa. Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said the body of Johnson, who was to turn 2 this month, was found in Pine Ridge Park in Blairsville, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) east of Penn Hills, where authorities allege the girl was kidnapped Saturday evening. An autopsy was planned Wednesday to determine the cause and manner of death, he said. (Christian Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
CORRECTS THE LOCATION TO MONROEVILLE, NOT PITTSBURGH - Aujah Johnson, 17, tapes a missing person flyer to the entrance of the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pa., Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, while searching for Nalani Johnson, her 1-year-old niece from Penn Hills, Pa., who was reported missing since Saturday. A woman accused of driving off with the toddler as the child's father got out of the car has alleged the father told her to deliver the baby to another woman because he had "sold" his daughter, authorities said Monday. (Christian Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
Malia Fowler, left, and Chanel Thomas put up a missing person flyer in the Monroeville Mall in Monroeville, Pa., Monday, Sept. 2, 2019, while searching for Nalani Johnson, her 1-year-old niece from Penn Hills, Pa., who was reported missing since Saturday. A woman accused of driving off with the toddler as the child's father got out of the car has alleged the father told her to deliver the baby to another woman because he had "sold" his daughter, authorities said Monday. (Christian Snyder/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)
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"The evidence does not indicate [that anyone else was involved]," Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. told the Post-Gazette Wednesday. "She gave statements, but I would hardly characterize them as cooperative."

Nalani's autopsy revealed that it's likely she died on Saturday, the same day she was allegedly kidnapped. When the 2-year-old was found dead on Tuesday, she was still strapped inside of car seat.

Zappala was reluctant to share other details from the autopsy at this stage in the investigation, but he said he hoped the information will help "put [the family's] minds at ease."

A funeral for Nalani is scheduled for Sept. 16, where family and community members will be able to pay their respects. Until then, many have been mourning the toddler at the park where she was found.

"It's really sad, it's just really awful, just awful that poor little girl. Why didn't she just leave her off somewhere safe," Dorene Robertson, from Boliver, Pa., told KDKA-TV Tuesday

"Whatever was going on with the adults involved you're so wrong to take a child's life," Denise Friedline, who lives in the town where Nalani was found, said. "I'm sorry it hurts. They deserve the worst punishment the law can hand them 'cause this is devastating."

"It's just a shock what happened, it's a shock to the community, everybody," Jim Sulkosky who also lives nearby told KDKA. 

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