GJPD: Second suspect arrested in 3-year-old's death

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT)-- The Grand Junction Police Department said a second person has been arrested in connection with death of a child in March, and the first suspect is speaking out.

Authorities said 32-year-old Rebekah Joy Wallin was arrested in the death of 3-year-old Bethannie Johnson. Wallin was renting the residence, where she lived with her three young children, according to police.

The child was found dead in March at a home in the 3000 block of North 14th Street.

Bethannie's aunt and legal guardian, Shanna Gossett, was arrested in March, shortly after the child died. She told police in earlier court documents, she strapped Bethannie into a high chair and put her in a closet for two weeks, because she was having a hard time controlling the child. She smashed Bethannie's head into a wall after she started throwing a tantrum.

In April, Gossett requested to have an interview with detectives, and said Wallin's involvement with injuries led to Bethannie's death. Gossett told police Wallin became increasingly controlling, not allowing her to speak with friends and family.

Authorities interviewed two women who were in a relationship with Wallin, and they also said she could be manipulative.

According to documents, Wallin became emotional and abusive, and forces Bethannie to drink water, including holding her head under the sink, about two weeks prior to her death.

Gossett said to police when Bethannie reacted, Wallin hit the child with a metal baking pan, and sat her in a bathtub full of cold water for hours.

Gossett said, according to documents, Wallin kept Bethannie in a high chair in the bedroom to keep her out of sight of her own children and visitors. Gossett told police Wallin punched Bethannie in the eye, and forced her to eat spicy food, making her choke. Wallin would make excuses, saying Bethannie was staying with her grandparents.

An abusive trend continued, according to Gossett, with Wallin beating Bethannie with a belt, and swinging her around by the legs as her head hit a glass cabinet.

Wallin, according to court documents, made Bethannie run up and down the hallway. Gossett said Bethannie fell and hit her head on the wall. Wallin ran towards Bethannie with a vacuum cleaner, hitting her with it. Gossett said she attempted to help Bethannie, Wallin took her by the feet and threw her, into the wall.

Bethannie stopped breathing. Gossett told Wallin to call 911, but Wallin refused. Gossett said Wallin would come up with stories to avoid calling for help. Wallin was afraid of losing her own children.

On the morning of March 17, Bethannie had a temperature of at least 100 degrees, according to documents, then stopped breathing again.

Before police arrived, Gossett said, Wallin ran to the bedroom to remove the blankets Bethannie was covered in, and hid bruise cream used to cover up the marks.

Police said Wallin admitted to living in the house, but provided no reasonable explanation as to how Bethannie was concealed in the home.

The coroner ruled the little girl died from blunt force.

Bethannie Johnson was unresponsive when paramedics arrived at the little girl’s home on March 17, 2014, she was pronounced dead a short time later.

Gossett and Wallin face murder, child abuse and false imprisonment charges. Wallin was scheduled to appear in court in August for a child custody hearing. Gossett is set to appear in court in September.

Shanna Gossett, 29 (Photo: GJPD)