Police and the FBI continued to search Monday for a 2-year-old allegedly abducted from her Penn Hills family.
Nalani Johnson was last seen wearing a black tank top with flamingos and “Born to Shine” in gold lettering, a black skirt with flamingos and black sandals, according to court paperwork filed in the case.
Allegheny County police said they believe the child was abducted about 5 p.m. Saturday at the intersection of Bryant and Clay drives in Penn Hills. Paul Johnson, Nalani’s father, told police that Sharena Islam Nancy kidnapped his daughter.
Nancy, 25, was arrested after she was found driving the car Saturday suspected in the abduction, according to a criminal complaint filed against her. An Allegheny County police detective and FBI agent interviewed Nancy, according to the complaint. During that interview, police said, Nancy told them Johnson had sold the child for $10,000, and he instructed her to drive the toddler to a woman who would take her.
Johnson, reached by phone Monday afternoon, denied Nancy’s allegations and declined to comment further.
Family members are offering a $3,500 reward for information leading to Nalani’s return.
Several family members and others gathered Monday at the Walmart in Delmont to continue searching for Nalani.
Rescue boats from Lloydsville, New Alexandria and Bradenville fire departments put three boats into Loyalhanna Creek at New Alexandria. A fire department spokesman said firefighters are searching along the banks of the creek.
New Alexandria Fire Lt. Watson Smith Jr. said one boat was deployed along each bank of the creek and the remaining boat searched the middle of the stream, which varied in depth from 3 to 6 feet. Twenty water rescue technicians from the fire departments went as a team, searching out from the banks of the creek for about five river miles, reaching about 1.5 miles from the Bush Recreation area of Loyalhanna Lake.
“Unfortunately, we came up empty-handed. We could not find anything,” Smith said.
They will wait to see if they are asked to resume the search Tuesday, Smith said.
The Allegheny County detectives had contacted the fire department Monday to conduct the search, Smith said.
A prayer vigil took place at Cribbs Field in Verona on Monday night.
Family and friends of the Johnsons gathered to pray for the parties involved in the case, searchers and law-enforcement and for Nalani safe return.
The event was coordinated by James Grantz, pastor of the up and coming Reverse Church in Verona.
He said he knew the family from church a few years ago at the former Hope Rising Church in Verona.
“Other than search, the only thing I know is to pray,” Grantz said. “We are a body of believers. … We’re here to support the family, to love and pray for them, offer comfort and peace through the body of Christ. They are not alone.”
Among the family members in attendance was Paul Johnson’s sister, Aujah Johnson.
“Thank you to everybody,” Aujah Johnson said. “There has been a lot of people (supporting us).”
She also said claims from Nancy about Paul Johnson selling his daughter are “untrue” and decline to talk further about the investigation.
When Paul Johnson first reported the abduction, he told police that he, Nalani and a friend were riding in a Toyota Yaris driven by Nancy, according to police. Johnson told police that at the intersection of Bryant and Clay drives, he got out of the car and was going to get Nalani out of her car seat when Nancy drove away with the child.
Johnson reported the kidnapping, and police on Saturday put out an Amber Alert for Nalani. The Toyota Yaris was seen traveling between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. along Route 22 and spotted in Delmont, New Alexandria and Blairsville, according to police. Nancy was captured on video about 5:30 p.m. at the Sheetz on Penn Highway in Murrysville, Allegheny County police said Monday.
A Penn Hills police officer spotted the Yaris about 7:30 p.m. Saturday on Rodi Road and stopped the car, according to the criminal complaint. Neither Nalani nor her car seat, a black and gray Evenflo Maestro Sport Harness Booster Seat, was found in the car.
During the interview with an Allegheny County police detective and FBI agent, Nancy said Johnson asked her to drive Nalani 20 minutes down Route 22 from a gas station in Monroeville and that someone would flag her down along the route, according to the complaint. Nancy said Johnson told her to give Nalani to the woman who flagged her down.
Nancy told police that she did what Johnson asked her to Saturday, according to the complaint. She said she saw a silver SUV with out-of-state plates on a berm with its flashers on, and a woman was standing beside it.
Nancy told police she gave Nalani and the car seat to the woman, drove to Blairsville and turned around, according to the complaint.
Police said they have not found the silver SUV and there have been no reported sightings of Nalani.
On Monday, police asked for people to be on the look out for Nalani and her car seat and to call the Allegheny County Police Tipline at 1-833-255-8477 with any information. Anyone who saw Nancy’s black Toyota Yaris or know Nancy should also call the tipline, according to police.
Nancy was arrested on charges of kidnapping of a minor, interference with the custody of children and concealing the whereabouts of a child, police said. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for noon Sept. 16 before Penn Hills Magisterial District Judge Anthony DeLuca. She is being held at the Allegheny County Jail without bail.