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2nd shoplifting suspect found dead in rain-swollen creek

Searchers find a second drowned shoplifting suspect, who fled with her companion into a rain-swollen Charlotte, N.C., creek when they were chased by a security guard.
/ Source: WCNC

Searchers have found the body of a 16-year-old girl who was missing after being swept away Friday in a swollen creek, NBC station WCNC reported.

She and another woman, who also drowned, were chased from a clothing store.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said they received a report of a larceny about 2:20 p.m. Friday at the Burlington Coat Factory in Crown Point Plaza shopping center off East Independence Boulevard.

When police arrived, one person was already in custody. But two others, police said, had fled. A security guard ran after the two others, apparently chasing them behind the shopping center, down an embankment and into a creek that rose quickly after heavy rain Friday.

The security guard was able to escape the creek and told authorities where he last saw them. About 4 p.m. Friday, firefighters found 43-year-old Gracie Nell Johnson about an eighth of a mile from where officials said she entered the creek.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. Records show Gracie was arrested June 30, charged with felony common law robbery. She was convicted of misdemeanor larceny in 2008, according to the N.C. Department of Correction.

Police sources said searchers walking on foot along the creek's banks found the 16-year-old's body about 1:40 p.m. Saturday. The teen has been identified as Rianna Johnson. They found Rianna behind 2108 Crown View Court.

Normally the creek is so shallow one could easily walk across it, said Charlotte Fire Capt. Rob Brisley. But on Friday, it had swollen to about 14 feet deep after heavy rain pounded the Charlotte area.

The security guard was apparently unharmed. A police crime scene van was parked in front of Burlington Coat Factory on Friday night, as customers continued their shopping.

Employees referred questions to the store's corporate office, which could not be immediately reached for comment.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.