On April 28, 2001, Erica's body was found, missing the head, near Hibbs Park at 59th Street and Kensington Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. The young girl's head was found approximately 150 to 200 yards southeast of the body recovery site on May 1, 2001. It was determined that she had been beaten with an ashtray (which was found with the body, but lacked DNA or fingerprints), and kicked several times, causing brutal injuries all over her body. The girl had been decapitated in an effort to keep police from being able to identify the body.
On May 5, 2005, the body was identified as Erica Green, age three, and her mother Michelle Johnson (also known as Michelle Pierce) and stepfather Harrell Johnson were charged with her murder and extradited from Oklahoma to face charges in Missouri. Michelle Johnson's eight other children were taken into state custody or placed with relatives. On December 3, 2005, prosecutors announced that they would seek the death penalty against Erica's stepfather, Harrell Johnson. Police have said that Erica died when Harrell Johnson used hedge clippers to sever her head. Johnson's cousin, Lawanda Driskell, said that Erica's mother helped Harrell dispose of the body by taking Erica from the house as if sleeping in a stroller and telling Driskell she had given Erica to the woman who had raised her while Johnson was in prison.
On October 8, 2008, Harrell Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. On October 22, 2008, Michelle Johnson was sentenced to 25 years in prison, in exchange for her 2007 guilty plea to second-degree murder and testimony against her husband.