An aunt who reported her pregnant niece missing a month before the girl's body was found in Milford Mill has admitted lying to the Baltimore County grand jury investigating the girl's death.
Alice A. Johnson, 28, of the 8000 block of Woodgate Court was convicted of perjury Monday and faces up to 10 years in prison. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger revoked her bail and jailed her until sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 26.
"She lied to the grand jury regarding material matters in her niece's disappearance and death," said Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst, who prosecuted the perjury charge.
The niece, Chanell Clanton, 16, of the 7200 block of Oakhaven Circle, was five months pregnant when she was reported missing May 23. She was last seen boarding a transit bus around 3 p.m., leaving City College High School in Baltimore for her aunt's home near Milford Mill High School.
She was supposed to baby sit at the home of Johnson, who "was interviewed from the get-go [and] did not give police correct information," said Ms. Brobst.
Baltimore police arrested a 17-year-old from West Baltimore on an unrelated murder charge and questioned him in the girl's disappearance.
Ms. Clanton had been the youth's "pen pal" while he was in prison for a handgun violation, but he had an alibi, and told police he had not seen her recently.
On June 24, a man found the girl's decomposed body in woods behind his house in the 3700 block of Old Milford Mill Road.
On July 27, Johnson testified before a county grand jury. The following month, she went to the police and admitted lying.
Marc S. Dorman, Johnson's attorney, said his client did so without his knowledge because "she wanted to help her niece."
"She went to the police on her own volition to tell them everything she knew about the case," but was charged anyway with perjury, said Mr. Dorman, who fought unsuccessfully to keep Johnson's admission from being used against her.
According to Ms. Brobst, Johnson lied when she told police and the grand jury that she had received several calls from her niece between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the day the girl disappeared.
In fact, there were no calls from the girl that night, and the aunt's delayed report of her disappearance cost searchers valuable time, said Ms. Brobst.
To support her claim about the phone calls, Johnson gave the name of a supposed friend at the telephone company, who she said had traced the local calls. There is no such employee, and traces of local calls aren't possible as Johnson described, the prosecutor said.
Johnson also told "a completely goofy" tale about how she obtained a unique initial "M" ring her niece was wearing the day she disappeared, Ms. Brobst said.