Amber Alert never issued after twin toddlers kidnapped

Arrested suspect says he doesn't remember a thing

POSTED: 7:35 AM Oct 23 2012   UPDATED: 9:21 PM Oct 24 2012
LENOIR COUNTY -

Lenoir County deputies said a man brutally assaulted a grandmother, took off with the twin toddlers she was watching and abandoned them in an alley -- and he insists he doesn't remember a thing.  During the three hours the toddlers were missing, an Amber Alert was never issued by authorities.

According to deputies, leads and tips were developing at a fast pace during the investigation.  They tell us an alert was in the process of being issued when the twins were found.

Phillip Brian Johnson, 24, was arrested and charged in connection with that kidnapping. He was found near Mallards Food Shop along N.C. Hwy 11 about two hours after deputies say he kidnapped the twins.  The children were not with him when he was found, and he allegedly told authorities that he didn't know how he'd gotten there.

The twins, 2, were found curled up together in the family's Dodge Neon about an hour after that, according to deputies.  The car was allegedly stolen by Johnson during the kidnapping.

It all started just after 7 p.m. Monday.  Louanne Neely, the twins' grandmother who was babysitting the children at their home on Turnage Drive in Kinston, told authorities that she had been attacked and that a family friend had taken the children and the family car.  Neeley said that Johnson was at the home waiting for the twins' father to return so that they could move a piece of furniture. Without warning, Neeley told authorities, the suspect started pushing her and then hit her in the face with a lamp.

After Neeley got up and ran to a neighbor's house for help, authorities were called and the search was on for the suspect, the car and the children.  Deputies first spotted Johnson about two hours later walking along the highway, but the car and children were nowhere to be found.

About an hour after that, the car was found in an alley along Heritage Street. The twins, one boy and one girl, were inside the unlocked car and were cuddled up together.  After a medical examination, they were returned to their parents.

“We were elated when they were located without injury,” Lenoir County Chief Deputy Christopher Hill said.

Johnson was taken to jail and held under a $200,000 bond. A motive is still unclear, but deputies said Johnson may have a history of drug problems and mental illness.