The mother of two children who were living periodically in a 5-by-10-foot unit at a central New Jersey storage facility will not have to serve a prison sentence.
Authorities say 28-year-old Sheena Johnson pleaded guilty Friday to child abuse and contempt charges as part of a plea deal that calls for her to serve four years of probation. She initially was charged with child endangerment after her sons, then ages 5 and 10, were found last April.
Officers checked the facility after Johnson was arrested for slashing her ex-boyfriend's tires, an act she says occurred because he refused to drive her sons to school. The dispute eventually led police to the facility in Ewing, where the boys were found in good health.
Johnson said her desperate financial situation and lack of a family support system led her to use the climate-controlled unit as a shelter. Moved by her plight, community members rallied around Johnson. They helped her post bail and held a fundraiser for her family at a Trenton restaurant.
Prosecutors say they received numerous calls on Johnson's behalf, and said they agreed to the plea deal because they didn't feel it was right to jail Johnson "when she's taking the right steps" to improve her life.
The two boys remain in the custody of their paternal grandmother, but Johnson said she hopes she can soon regain custody. Johnson said she has been employed through a staffing agency and recently moved into a three-bedroom apartment.