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Mom Charged In 'Precious Doe' Slay

A little girl whose decapitated body was found four years ago has been identified through a tip, and the girl's mother was being charged, authorities announced Thursday.

The slain girl, who had become known as Precious Doe, was Erica Michelle Maria Green, who was almost 4 when she died. The body was found near an intersection on April 28, 2001, with her head later found nearby, wrapped in a trash bag.

The mother, Michelle Johnson, is being charged with felony murder and endangering the welfare of a child. Kansas City authorities were seeking her extradition from Muskogee, Okla., Mike Sanders, the Jackson County prosecutor, said.

The little girl's story had touched the community deeply.

"This is a bittersweet day because we have lost Erica. And yet, it is a day of closure," said Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes Thursday.

The mystery surrounding Precious Doe transfixed Kansas City in the year after her body was found in a wooded area in the southern part of the city. Police and the public were upset that no parents or other relatives of the girl had come forward to claim her.

In the weeks after Precious Doe was found, police received more than 800 calls and letters from around the country, combed missing-persons reports and contacted day-care centers and schools. The FBI took blood samples from family members of 27 missing black girls in the same age range from around the country, and the case was featured several times on television's "America's Most Wanted."

Lockhart would not elaborate on what finally led to the positive identification, except to say that a call they got last week directed them to an Oklahoma couple and resulted in a break in the case.

"It's still very much a developing investigation," Lockhart said.

Detectives went to Muskogee on Wednesday to interview members of a family after getting a second tip from a man living there who said he was related to the child. An initial investigation last year of a tip from the same man did not produce any solid leads.

The Oklahoma man also contacted Alonzo Washington, a community activist who has championed efforts to identify the little black girl as he works to raise awareness of missing black children.

On Tuesday, Washington received a package containing a photo of the woman the man said was the child's mother, pictured with several children, including one that the Oklahoma man said he believed to be Erica. Washington gave the photo to police.

"We know who Precious Doe is, and it's just a miraculous day," Washington told CBS affiliate KCTV. "It's amazing what can happen over one tip."

Washington said one of the detectives who went to Oklahoma had called him from there with the news.

Hopes of identifying her were raised briefly in when Florida child welfare officials realized in 2002 that they had lost track of a girl in foster care for more than a year, but DNA tests showed that Precious Doe was not that girl, 5-year-old Rilya Wilson.

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