Monique Johnson was a forgotten woman left to die, her neglect by her mother and sister – the only family she had – so profound and so prolonged that authorities could not estimate her body weight before her decline. They could only determine her weight at death: 36 pounds.
Johnson was 37 years old when she died Feb. 12, 2014, in her mother’s home of severe neglect, dehydration and starvation.
It was the worst case of neglect I’ve seen in my career, hands down.
Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Kari Reeve
So severe was Johnson’s abuse that her mother, Shelia Johnson, 55, will likely spend the rest of her life behind bars for second-degree murder in a case a prosecutor called the worst of its kind she had ever seen.
Johnson was sentenced Friday to 15 years to life in state prison for causing her developmentally disabled daughter’s death. Monique’s younger sister, Ravetra Nicole Jones, was sentenced to four years, eight months in Sacramento County custody for involuntary manslaughter and fraud after fatally abandoning their flesh-and-blood while continuing to accept county cash as her sister’s designated caretaker.
“This is a victim who was forgotten by her family, but not forgotten by others,” said Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny from the bench.
Law enforcement first learned of Monique Johnson’s state in 2010, finding her living in squalor in a back bedroom. Officials said her family rejected offers of assistance.
“Her neglect was so severe that there was no reliable way to gauge what her weight would’ve been. It was the worst case of neglect I’ve seen in my career, hands down,” said Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Kari Reeve after sentencing.
Johnson and Jones, 31, pleaded no contest to the charges in June. Both had maintained they became physically unable to care for their disabled kin. The two have since been housed on a medical floor at Sacramento County Main Jail as they awaited sentencing. Johnson used a wheelchair at Friday’s hearing. Jones takes dialysis treatments at the jail, attorneys said.
Monique Johnson, who could neither speak nor walk, lived at the family’s Sacramento County home. Ravetra Jones cared for Monique full time beginning in July 2011 and was paid by Sacramento County’s In-Home Supportive Services, a program through the county’s Department of Health and Human Services that helps pay for services to allow people to receive at-home care.
Jones took the money – more than $25,000, prosecutors said – even as Monique’s health continued to deteriorate and, prosecutors said, even as Jones and Johnson continued to turn away offer upon offer of help and services.
“Services were offered multiple times over the years. In Monique’s situation, there were many services available to assist,” Reeve said. “In Monique’s case, they weren’t accepted.”
Law enforcement first learned of Monique’s state in 2010 during an unrelated service call at the family’s home, finding her living in squalor in a back bedroom, Reeve said.
“The officer followed up numerous times” with Johnson and Jones, Reeve said. “Unfortunately, there’s only so much people can do and Monique ended up neglected to the point of death.”
Reeve said law enforcement, prosecutors and advocates were left shaken by Monique’s death.
“This was more than just an invalid who was left to die,” Reeve said at sentencing. “This is a woman who touched many lives.”