The cause of Nalani’s death is currently unknown, and an autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.
Dougherty said that Pennsylvania State Police, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI are all working “hand-in-hand” on the case.
People notes that 25-year-old Sharena Nancy is currently being held at the Allegheny County Jail facing charges of kidnapping of a minor, interference with the custody of children, and concealment of the whereabouts of a child in Nalani’s case. Authorities have not said if Nancy is also a suspect in Nalani’s death, according to WTAE.
The tragic case of the toddler started on Saturday evening when Nancy allegedly sped off with the child still in her vehicle after she dropped off Nalani’s father, Paul Johnson, and an unidentified friend near Pittsburgh.
According to court paperwork, Johnson, who notified authorities, said he tried to call Nancy but she did not answer.
The 25-year-old was arrested a few hours later; however, Nalani was nowhere to be found.
Nancy told authorities that Johnson had “sold” the toddler to “an unnamed individual” for $10,000. Nancy insisted that the girl’s father asked her to drive the two-year-old “20 minutes from a gas station in Monroeville along U.S. Route 22.”
She told officers that she met up with a person in a silver SUV with out-of-state plates and handed the child over to the individual.
However, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said in a Tuesday news conference that Nancy and Johnson had known each other prior to the alleged kidnapping and were “in the beginnings of an intermittent romantic relationship.”
Nancy, Johnson, the friend later identified as Justin Rouse, and Nalani had spent several hours together prior to the alleged abduction, McDonough alleges.
“This was not an arbitrary Uber/Lyft—they were known to each other,” McDonough said.
Authorities now believe that an argument between Rouse and Nancy prompted the two men to get out of the car. As Johnson tried to get Nalani out of her car seat, authorities believe Nancy drove off.
As for Nancy’s versions of events, McDonough said that investigators “have nothing to corroborate or suggest that that version of events is correct.”
“We have a situation where we have two versions of events at the same time, similar versions up to certain point in time during the day and then the versions differ dramatically, so a lot of our investigative efforts are trying to corroborate one version or the other,” he said.
“This is not the outcome that any of us would have wished. We will continue to keep the Johnson family in our thoughts,” McDonough added in a statement on Facebook.
Allegheny County Police is asking any business owners or private citizens along the Route 22 corridor who may have surveillance footage that may be beneficial to the case to contact the department.
They are also asking anyone with information surrounding the case, or who may know Nancy to call 1-833-ALL-TIPS (1-833-255-8477).