This is a somber way to open an article about a case, but the fact remains: investigators believe that three-year-old Shanta Marie Johnson was murdered. The toddler went missing back in 1992 while out with her foster mother Susan Marie Johnson, and while there is circumstantial evidence leading detectives to their conclusion that Shanta is no longer with us, there hasn’t been any arrests made in connection to her case.
Shanta Marie Johnson had a rough life from the onset. Her biological mother was a drug user, even throughout her pregnancy with Shanta. At birth, the little girl tested positive for cocaine and the infant became a ward of the state. By 1992, her mother was serving out a sentence for a drug conviction and Shanta was living with her foster mother, Susan Marie Johnson, in South Carolina.
According to Susan, it was July 19, 1992, when she was at the Briarcliffe Mall in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with Shanta in tow. Susan claims that while shopping at K-Mart, Shanta mysteriously disappeared around 3:30 p.m. while browsing the toy section. Police would later comb through K-Mart’s surveillance footage but couldn’t find anything that showed that Shanta was ever in the store. Susan is reportedly seen entering K-Mart by herself.
Investigators shifted their focus to Shanta’s birth family who just happened to be hosting a family reunion in Myrtle Beach when the toddler went missing. There was a theory that someone from the family kidnapped Shanta so that the three-year-old could be raised with members of her biological family. The relatives were investigated by authorities and all cleared as being persons of interest in the disappearance of Shanta Marie Johnson.
Months before Shanta went missing, Susan and her husband, Willie Johnson, were being investigated. It’s unclear what led to her hospital visit, but a nurse reportedly told the Department of Social Services that Shanta had particular marks on her body that may have suggested that she was being abused. The nurse also reportedly noted that the three-year-old was exhibited behaviors of fear. Shanta’s babysitter also told authorities that she personally saw burn marks on the toddler’s behind. Susan excused the marks by telling the babysitter that it was a sunburn, but little Shanta told her babysitter that Susan burned her with hot grease. Three years after Shanta Marie Johnson was reported missing, Susan Marie Johnson was charged with abuse. Whatever came of that charge hasn’t been made public.
Shanta wasn’t the only child in Susan and Willie’s care. Her younger brother was also in the Johnson household and the foster parents were reportedly petitioning to legally adopt the siblings. However, that all came to a crashing halt after Shanta went missing and DDS removed the little boy. He was later adopted.
Property belonging to Susan and Willie Johnson was reportedly searched the year Susan was charged with abuse. There were items belonging to Shanta found on the property, however, what exactly was located is unclear. Police reportedly believe that Shanta was buried there at some point but her remains were later dug up and moved to an unknown area.
At the time of her disappearance, Shanta was described as being 3 feet tall and 44 pounds. She had black/dark brown hair and brown eyes. Her birth name was Shante Reid. Additionally, in 1992, Shanta was reportedly classified as a special needs child and may have exhibited mental, emotional, or medical issues as she aged. She was last seen wearing a navy blue t-shirt with a picture of Mickey Mouse on it, white shorts, and white sneakers that had blue trim with rabbit images. Shanta would be 31-years-old at the time of this publication.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Horry County Police Department at (843) 915-5350 or their local authorities.
Please share this story of Shanta Marie Johnson to reignite the investigation into her disappearance. She is our sister and her life matters.