Left: Shanta circa, 1992
Right: Age Progressed to age 22
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: July 19, 1992
Missing From: Myrtle Beach, Horry County, South Carolina
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: January 3, 1989
Age: 3 years old
Height and Weight: 3’0″ and 44 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: African American Female, Black hair, Brown eyes, Shanta tested positive for cocaine at birth due to her mothers drug use during pregnancy and might have mental and medical problems as a result, Shanta was considered a special needs child at the time of her disappearance, she might use the birth name of “Shanta Reid”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A navy blue t-shirt with the Disney character Mickey Mouse on it, white shorts, and white sneakers with blue trim and rabbit designs on them
NCMEC Number: 776350
Details of Disappearance
Shanta Johnson was last seen in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on July 19th 1992. Her foster mother, Susan Marie Johnson, claimed that she and the girl visited the Briarcliffe Mall during the afternoon. She claimed that Shanta wandered away from her while they were in the toy Department of a K-Mart Store at approximately 3:30 pm. She was never seen or heard from again.
Investigators immediately classified her disappearance as a non family abduction and investigated the case as such. They initially looked at her birth relatives since they were having a family reunion in the area on the weekend of Shanta’s alleged abduction but they were all cleared.
Shanta’s birth mother was also spoken to by investigators. When Shanta was born, she tested positive for cocaine in her system since her mother used drugs when she was pregnant with her. She was in a state prison in North Carolina at the time of her daughters disappearance and is not a suspect. She also had no useful information as to to where or what happened to Shanta.
Investigators also looked into the possibility that Shanta simply wandered out of the store and into the parking area of the mall. Police and divers searched three ponds that were in front of the mall a few days after she disappeared. Shanta’s family car was parked only 150 yards away from the largest pond which was 5 feet deep. They thought Shanta could have wandered into the ponds after seeing the fountains or a family of ducks. No trace of her was found.
After no trace of Shanta was found anywhere in the area, investigators focused back onto the theory that Shanta was taken by a stranger she didn’t know. They started to doubt Susan’s story about the abduction after finding that Shanta didn’t show up on any of the stores security tapes. The tapes did show Susan entering the store alone, however. Investigators don’t even believe that Shanta even went to South Carolina that day.
Susan and her husband William Johnson began adoption proceedings for both Shanta and her younger brother just 3 to 4 months before the child’s disappearance. The Department of Social Services still has custody of both children at the time, however. Her brother was removed from the Johnson home just a day after the reported abduction. He has since been adopted by another family.
Investigators suspect that Shanta was abused before she disappeared. One month before her disappearance, a hospital nurse filed a report saying that Shanta was acting fearfully and had markings on her body which suggested she was being harmed. The behavior she exhibited was unusual since Shanta previously appeared to be extroverted. She also bit her fingernails severely to the point where her fingertips were bleeding.
She was seen by a doctor on May 5th of that year and appeared to be in good or excellent health. The marks found on her during the June visit showed she had bruising and scratches on her body.
Shanta’s babysitter also came forward and stated that she had discovered severe burn marks on Shanta’s buttocks prior to her disappearance. Shanta told the sitter that Susan had burned her with hot grease. Susan fought this claim and said that the burns were simply sunburn.
Susan was formally charged with abusing Shanta in July of 1995. While it’s unknown as to what occurred with the charge, investigators have named Susan as the primary suspect in Shanta’s disappearance and they believe she was the victim of a planned and premeditated homicide.
On July 26th 1995, investigators searched the property owned by Susan and William in Pender County, North Carolina. They hoped to potentially uncover Shanta’s remains. They did dig in an area and found evidence that they described as plastic bits and other small items. The evidence was linked to Shanta. A dog also alerted at an area and soil samples were taken to test for bodily fluids, the results of the test are unknown.
Investigators believe that Shanta was buried at the location at some point after she went missing. They believe that her body was eventually dug up and moved to another location. They are investigating her disappearance as a murder. No charges have been filed in relation to her death
At the time of her disappearance, Shanta lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She has never been found and her case remains unsolved. It’s currently classified as a non family abduction.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Cumberland County Sheriffs Office 919-323-1500
Horry County Police Department 843-915-7965