A Lake Isabella man who is charged with murder after admitting to pressing his 9-month-old daughter's face into a mattress had a history of anger issues and was jealous of the baby, the child's mother told sheriff's investigators.
The mother said Michael Ianvan Johnson, 24, was a good dad, but sometimes became rough with Seraphim Ould-Johnson and told the baby to "shut up," according to court documents. She said Johnson hit Seraphim on the head with an empty water bottle, tried to discipline her by slapping her hand and became frustrated when the child said "mama" instead of "dada."
On June 23, deputies were called to the Johnson residence in the 2600 block of Crestview Avenue to a report of a child not breathing. Seraphim was taken to Kern Valley Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
An autopsy determined cause of death was acute neck compression. Doctors found bruising in her throat and hemorrhaging in both lungs.
Johnson was not immediately arrested as detectives continued the investigation and waited on further studies.
In early February, Johnson was called to sheriff's headquarters, where he was re-interviewed. He told investigators Seraphim kept rolling onto her stomach in her crib and fussing the morning of her death.
On three occasions, he picked her up and put her on her back. The fourth time he decided to let her stay on her stomach. He returned a short time later and she was unresponsive, he told investigators according to the documents.
Detectives challenged his version of events. They said they believed he hurt Seraphim, possibly accidentally.
Eventually, Johnson admitted to pushing on the back of Seraphim's neck, pressing her face into the mattress, the documents say. When he released her she gasped for breath. He left her and went to another room to play a computer game.
He returned 15 minutes later to find Seraphim not breathing.
"I asked Michael if he knew that pushing (Seraphim's) face and head down into the mattress could cause injury and death and he said he did not," a detective wrote in the documents. "Michael went on to say he was frustrated and angry at the time and did not know he was doing that."
Detectives arrested Johnson after finishing the interview.
A person who knows the family came forward and told investigators the couple had an abusive relationship, describing Johnson as a "rageoholic." This person, whose name was redacted from the documents, said he was twice called to their home to try to calm Johnson down.
The person said part of the reason he came forward was he'd learned the couple were trying to have another baby.
Johnson remains held on $1 million bail and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday.