Amber Alert; teen safe, father arrested, facing new charges in TN, SC
SODDY-DAISY, HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB)-- A Chattanooga teenager is safely home but for more than 20 hours, her family was frantic. Until an AMBER Alert ended what police call a "forced journey" that brought her father into custody.
Soddy-Daisy's Chad Wallace figured his next door neighbor, Thomas Johnson, simply was a guy who valued his privacy.
"He just mainly stayed to himself," says Wallace. "Had some friends over in the driveway, that's about it."
Nor did he believe Johnson had any family, other than his father. At least, until Easter Sunday.
"I saw a girl, probably a teenager," says Wallace. "She had kind of reddish hair."
He now believes the girl was Johnson's 15-year-old daughter Monica.
Chattanooga Police tell Eyewitness News they had little choice after Monica disappeared about 2AM Wednesday, shortly after Hamilton County probation officers determined that Johnson's GPS monitoring device no longer was working.
"The Amber Alert was issued because he is a registered sex offender," Sgt. Jerri Weary says.
Johnson was sentenced to 15 years for a conviction of criminal sexual conduct in South Carolina, according to Pete O'Boyle, of the Probation and Parole office there.
Since February, however, he was finishing his time on 'Community Supervision' with family in Tennessee.
"Really shocking," Wallace says. "Because we have a lot of kids in the neighborhood."
Wallace has a 3-year-old son, Micah.
Chattanooga Police knew to look for Johnson and his daughter in a black Kia Soul. His father had rented the SUV, and reported it stolen shortly before Monica Johnson disappeared, Sgt. Weary says.
Johnson was captured at 10:45 Wednesday evening, about an hour after Soddy-Daisy Police received the Amber Alert.
Officers tell Eyewitness News that a gas station attendant recognized Johnson, and the vehicle, and called in a tip. Monica Johnson was in the passenger seat when police pulled over her father in the parking lot of the Wal Mart Supercenter, 9334 Dayton Pike.
"The whole scene was described as very emotional, high strung, I'm not sure in whose favor," Sgt. Weary says.
Monica Johnson was released to her mother and grandmother.
Johnson faces new charges of grand theft and of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He's due in court May 24.
South Carolina also is expected to add charges involving violations of his supervised release.
O'Boyle tells us conditions of that release required Johnson's family members to vouch for, and support him. Johnson had to find a job, wear the GPS ankle monitor, and report to a probation-parole officer in Hamilton County.
But officials say he did not have restrictions placed on how often he could visit his daughter.
Thus, the question 'why' remains a mystery to all but Johnson himself.
Chad Wallace has a pretty good idea how his neighbors on Viewmont Drive will react to the charges facing the younger occupant of 123-B.
"They've gotta be shocked. It sure was shocking to me," says Wallace.