"It's a sad thing for something like that to happen to a young child, it really is," said Katie Marshall, another neighbor. "We have to watch our children more carefully."
Bart Lubow, the director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national child advocacy organization based in Baltimore, said a large part of the case, should the girl be charged, would focus on whether the 5-year-old was capable of even forming intent or knowing what drowning meant, something he argued is not possible.
"You can imagine a child responding to other children's crying by saying, 'I know how to stop that.' But the notion that there was intent there is silly," Lubow said. "For a 5-year-old, this is well beyond the pale of what our criminal or delinquency laws are intended to address."
He said the case should proceed with a "very child-centered approach."
The young suspect is now in the care of the Jackson County Court, but officials would not comment on whether the girl was back home with her family or in foster care.
"We cannot speak at all to the child's current living arrangement," said Mary Jacobi, a spokeswoman for the court.
According to Johnson Sr.'s Facebook wall, memorial services for his son, Jermane, will be held on Monday, June 13, in St. Louis.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.