WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — The presumed paternal grandmother of 6-month-old baby Noah, who was allegedly left to die by his mother, believes the accused murderer was mentally ill and that the tiny victim was failed by the system.
“It’s like I’m looking at a ‘Law and Order’ movie. It’s not my life,” said the grandmother, who did not want to be identified.
Lovily Johnson, 22, of Wyoming is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree child abuse in the death of her son, Noah.
Marshall White believes he is Noah’s father, but he is getting a DNA test to be sure. White’s mother said she believes the tragedy could have been avoided.
“I think the system failed her. I think the people she wanted to love her failed her,” she said of Johnson. “It feels like people did not do their job. It feels like they’re still not doing their job.”
CHILDREN TESTED POSITIVE FOR MARIJUANA
A court petition to have Johnson’s 2-year-old daughter removed from the home reveals more about the days leading up to Noah’s death.
The petition shows Children’s Protective Services complaints against Johnson dating back to 2015, shortly after she gave birth to her daughter. In March of that year, Johnson reportedly admitted to using marijuana during her pregnancy after tests showed the drug in her newborn daughter’s system.
About two months later, CPS was contacted after the baby’s father, White, allegedly attacked Johnson. The court said there was “a preponderance of evidence” that White didn’t properly supervise the infant girl.
The record then jumps to January of this year, when Noah reportedly tested positive for marijuana following his birth. Johnson told CPS she stopped using marijuana in April the year prior, but the court petition indicates she tested positive for the drug four days after Noah was born.
On June 19, Johnson gave her biological mother power of attorney over her daughter. Noah remained in her care.
THE LAST COMPLAINT
The last complaint before Noah’s death came 16 days before his mother brought his body to the hospital, according to the petition.
On July 3, police were called to the Family Video off Byron Center Avenue in Wyoming on a report that a baby had been left alone in a vehicle for 20 minutes. Officers said Noah was left in Johnson’s boyfriend’s vehicle, which was unlocked and not running with the windows slightly rolled down.
An officer said Johnson “did not appear to care the child was in the vehicle and unsupervised and she kept defending why she needed multiple DVD’s (sic).”
In the vehicle, officers allegedly found marijuana, a skull-shaped pipe and a digital scale.
Still, Noah was not removed from her care.
“If she had left the baby alone in the car, wouldn’t that be a reason to remove the child?” White’s mother wondered Wednesday. “You find drugs in the car as well, but you leave the baby?”
Around 2:30 a.m. July 19, Johnson brought her lifeless son to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Police said the baby had been dead a while. He had a bloated stomach, glossy eyes, smelled and had blood in his diaper area, according to the petition.
LEFT ALONE FOR DAYS
According to an arrest affidavit, Johnson admitted to police that Noah was under her care and no one else’s in the four days before he arrived at the hospital.
The petition states that after Noah’s death, Johnson admitted to leaving him home alone for about 12 hours on July 17. Johnson reportedly stopped at the house around 10 a.m. that day to give Noah a bottle, but did not change his diaper before leaving him to smoke marijuana with her friends, the petition states.
Johnson returned home that evening and changed Noah’s diaper but did not feed him, according to the court document. She told authorities the baby whined for about 30 minutes before she sang him a song. She said she assumed he fell asleep when he stopped crying. She then reportedly took a bath and fell asleep, according to the petition.
Johnson admitted to leaving the baby home alone in the subsequent days. In that time, she said she came home twice but did not check on the baby, according to the petition. She admitted to smoking marijuana and visiting a store, a gas station and a bank before finally checking on Noah at home and finding him unresponsive, the court document states.
The petition indicates Johnson contacted her father for a ride to the hospital and never called 911.
The arrest affidavit said Noah had been buckled in a car seat on the upper floor of Johnson’s apartment with no air conditioning since the evening of July 17. Police said the temperature in the room Noah had been left in was 90.5 degrees about eight hours after he was declared dead. They also found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the apartment, located in the 2600 block of McKee Avenue SW, according to the petition.
The medical examiner determined Noah weighed 12 pounds and had severe diaper rash at the time of his death.
Johnson told authorities she would change the infant’s diaper four or five times a day and feed him four times a day. However, her mother said she would have to change the baby’s soiled diapers when Johnson would not and remind Johnson to feed the infant, according to court documents.
White said he didn’t have a stable home and smoked marijuana two to four times a week, the petition stated. The document says White also has a criminal history of domestic violence and drug violations.
INCIDENT WITH GRANDDAUGHTER
Before Noah was born, Johnson had stayed White and White’s mother.
“When she was staying with me, she seemed to be a very good mother,” White’s mother said.
But she also remembered one time when she came home to find her infant granddaughter alone and awake on a couch.
“(Johnson) was nowhere around,” she said. “She said she just ran to the store.”
The grandmother called CPS because of what she had seen with Johnson’s parenting after she moved out and was living on and off with White. Johnson controlled visitation because White had been convicted of domestic violence and owed child support. Eventually, the two broke up.
“He feels like if he would have stayed with her, this may not have happened,” White’s mother said.
TRYING TO PREVENT A TRAGEDY
Johnson said she suffered from depression and had reported previous suicide attempts, but refused to go to Pine Rest despite three separate requests by hospital staff, according to the petition.
“I think she was mentally unstable,” White’s mother said. “I cannot say anybody would have been in their right mind to take a child to the hospital that has been dead for some time.”
The petition lists more than a half-dozen classes and support programs offered to Johnson.
There will be an investigation by the Office of Children’s Ombudsmen into whether CPS and the state Department of Health and Human Services did its job in this case.
If convicted of either first-degree child abuse or murder, Johnson could spend the rest of her life in prison. She will be back in Wyoming District Court on Aug. 2 for a probable cause hearing.