Family photo of Kia Johnson, left, who was murdered one year ago.
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
McKEESPORT, Pa. (CBS/AP) Terrell Kian Johnson is turning one on Wednesday. He's lucky to be alive.
Wednesday is also the first anniversary of his mother's death, when she was kidnapped, bound and a yet-to-be-born Terrell was taken from her womb.
It was a horrific tale, but for family and friends, Terrell's unlikely survival is nothing short of a miracle.
"He's the happiest little baby; he just laughs all the time. There ain't nothing but Jesus flowing through him," the boy's grandfather Eric Johnson said, fighting back tears. "I just thank God that we have him."
The 47-year-old Eric Johnson is raising Terrell and trying to plan his first birthday party, complete with cake and maybe a clown, but he is also mourning his daughter's loss.
"It was a birthday and a death ...It's a wee bit hard to swallow," said Johnson of McKeesport.
His daughter Kia Johnson was 18 years old and 36 weeks pregnant when authorities say 40-year-old Andrea Curry-Demus abducted her.
The two met at the Allegheny County jail, where Kia Johnson was visiting her baby's father and Curry-Demus was visiting another inmate. Prosecutors say Curry-Demus somehow lured the young woman to her suburban Pittsburgh apartment. She then proceeded to cut open Kia Johnson, stealing the baby.
Curry-Demus went to Pittsburgh hospital with the newborn, the baby's umbilical cord still attached, and tried to pass off Johnson's son as her own, according to WPXI Pittsburgh. Hospital tests proved she was not the mother. She then proceeded to tell officials she had bought the baby for $1,000.
Johnson's body was later found in Curry-Demus's apartment.
It wasn't the first time Curry-Demus allegedly tried to take a baby. She's being held in a state mental hospital until a judge decide if she's competent to stand trial.
While Eric Johnson waits for justice for his daughter, he tries to focus on his grandson, named after Kia and the baby's father, who is serving a 5- to 10-year sentence for robbery. Johnson is raising Kian with his cousin.
"I can't wait till I can take him fishing, do the camping thing. I just wish my daughter was here to share that with us," Johnson said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
The killing left him so depressed that he quit his job as a customer service representative. He can't sleep. Sometimes, he finds himself sitting outside, waiting for his daughter to return.
"I don't have it no more ... took the whole world out of me," he said, acknowledging that having Terrell around sometimes takes the edge off the pain.
Johnson recalled his daughter as mature, kind and generous. She volunteered with him at the local Salvation Army feeding the homeless and worked as candy striper at the local hospital.
Shortly before her death, she moved from her father's into her own apartment. She wanted to be on her own and raise her child, Johnson said. A week before she was killed, she rededicated herself to Christ, he said.
Johnson is skeptical that Curry-Demus may be mentally ill.
"I don't think she's crazy. I think she's playing crazy," he said.
Christopher Patarini, Curry-Demus' attorney, visited her at the state hospital Friday but said he could not discuss with the media details of the case or what they talked about. He said the hospital is a much better setting for her than the county jail but could not say when she might be ready for trial.
Curry-Demus was found to have major depression and a mixed personality disorder following two other criminal cases involving acquiring babies.
In May 1990, several months after Curry-Demus said she had a miscarriage, she stabbed a woman in an apparent plot to steal her newborn, according to court records. The next day, she kidnapped a baby from a hospital.
Court records from those cases described her as obsessed with getting an infant. She was twice briefly committed to a mental hospital while the cases played out in court.
She pleaded guilty in January 1991 to kidnapping, concealing the whereabouts of a child and related offenses, and was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison. She also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was placed on probation for 10 years. She was released in August 1998.
At his daughter's funeral, Johnson and his ex-wife said they forgave Curry-Demus. Now, he's less certain.
"God says to forgive, but wow," he said.
"I feel that why should she get to breathe air and live life? ... I've got to wake up every day and hold my daughter in an urn ... I kiss that urn every day. It's the only thing I got left, that and my grandson," he said.
He keeps Kia's ashes in a blue urn patterned with butterflies on a shelf in his sparsely decorated house. A framed picture of Jesus hangs nearby, apparently the only picture hanging in the house.
Some of her ashes are also in a tiny silver angel pendent that he wears.
"They say God does everything for a reason. Maybe God needed another angel," he said. "That's how I look at that, because that's the only place she could have went."