Metro-East News

Woman to stand trial for beating death of live-in girlfriend’s 3-year-old son

Tiara Johnson
Tiara Johnson

After giving her little boy a glass of apple juice, the young mother sent a text to a friend that said “I wanted to beat the life out of him,” according to a police report.

Hours later, that 3-year-old boy was dead from a beating, and the young mother is the star witness against her live-in girlfriend, who faces a first-degree murder charge in the boy’s death.

Dyamond Honore and Tiara Johnson were both charged with abusing Alen Sams IV, Honore’s son, but it was Johnson who was charged with murder for the Feb. 26, 2016, beating death of young Alen.

Patrick Sullivan and Greg Nester, Johnson’s attorneys, intend to take the case to trial to let a jury decide who killed the boy.

“We want justice for Tiara. She has maintained her innocence throughout this process and we are confident that she will be exonerated once we present the facts of this case to a jury,” said Sullivan.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said his assistant, Bernadette Schrempp, is getting ready for trial.

“As the public defender knows, we have a process for asserting actual innocence that can be initiated, but thus far that is not an assertion they have made to the prosecution,” Kelly said.

Alen lost his life from head injuries. Police were called to the home in the 5500 block of Caseyville Avenue in Washington Park after someone reported a child fell down the stairs. The only adult with the boy when police were called was Johnson.

Honore told police Alen was eating when she went to work as a dancer at the nearby Hustler Club in Washington Park. She had just arrived when she received a call from Johnson, telling her Alen had fallen down the stairs.

Emergency medical personnel found that Alen was already dead. During the autopsy, the cause of death was found to be traumatic head injury.

“The examiner, however, noted very extensive bruising all over the child’s body that appeared to be both fresh and older injuries,” Schrempp told Circuit Judge Steve McGlynn during a hearing at which Honore entered a guilty plea.

During that plea hearing, Honore admitted that both she and Johnson physically disciplined Alen in the days leading up to his death and that some of the discipline “was excessive.” Honore denied inflicting any head injury. She also admitted to leaving Alen with Johnson, who she knew was beating the boy.

Johnson told police three different stories, according to testimony. At one point she admitted she struck Alen in the chest before he collapsed.

Honore was charged with aggravated battery of a child and endangering the life a child; Johnson was charged with murder.

Nester and Sullivan, Johnson’s attorneys, are asking to impeach Honore during Johnson’s trial.

“The premise of this charge is unfairly prejudicial to (Johnson). She enjoys the presumption of innocence. This charge presupposes that Johnson was a proximate cause of the death of the child, thus eviscerating the presumption of innocence in the mind of the jury,” according to a motion filed in Johnson’s case.

Johnson’s lawyers also asked that prosecutors be barred from mentioning that Johnson previously injured Alen and was the primary disciplinarian of the child, and from testimony she gave to the California Department of Children and Family Services.

Honore was released on electronic monitor, then supervised release and allowed to move to St. Louis. She now lives there with her wife, but has asked to move to San Diego after Johnson’s trial so she can be near her family.

As part of Honore’s plea deal, she must testify against Johnson, her former girlfriend. She was sentenced to a four-year prison sentence, but with credit for time served on the electronic monitor, she won’t have to serve any prison time.

When she appeared to enter her guilty plea, Honore cried. She told the judge she was taking medication to combat depression. Honore was wearing a shirt with Alen’s picture on it.

“He’s a beautiful little boy,” McGlynn told her during the July 17 hearing.

After his autopsy, Alen’s body was released to a local funeral home for cremation. No services were held.

Johnson will stand trial on Sept. 24. If convicted, she faces life in prison.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570.