Nicole Michelle Johnson Baltimore aunt charged driving with decomposing bodies of niece, 7 & nephew, 5, for over a year in trunk.
‘An unspeakable horror…’ A Maryland woman has been charged with child abuse after she was caught driving around the streets of Baltimore with the decomposing bodies of her niece, 7, and nephew, 5, for months, before telling cops she would be making her ‘big debut’ on the news.
Nicole Michelle Johnson, 33, is accused of stuffing the body of 7-year-old Joshlyn Johnson in a suitcase in the trunk of her car back in May 2020 after the child died.
Joshlyn’s body was allegedly rotting in the car for a year when her five-year-old brother Larry Darnell O’Neal also died this May.
Johnson allegedly then shoved Larry’s corpse into a plastic tote bag and placed him in the trunk next to the remains of his older sister.
The 33-year-old was the siblings’ aunt and had been trusted by their mother to care for them since 2019. Police documents state the two children were severely malnourished at the time of their deaths, weighing less than half the weight of healthy children their ages.
‘Y’all going to see me on the news making my big debut.’
Police made the macabre discovery around 11pm Wednesday when they pulled Johnson over for a traffic stop on Eastern Boulevard near Wagners Lane in Essex County.
The officer said Johnson’s car had a fake temporary tag and registration and she was also driving without a license, according to charging documents obtained by Capital Gazette.
Johnson was issued a citation to appear in court and was told her car would be towed, charging documents stated.
On hearing this, Johnson allegedly told the cop: ‘It don’t matter, I won’t be here in five days.’
Added the woman: ‘Y’all going to see me on the news making my big debut.’
It was upon the officer opening and clearing the trunk so the car could be towed that they noticed the smell of decomposing bodies coming from some bags, the documents stated.
Police said they then found the two siblings’ decomposing corpses in the car – Joshlyn in a suitcase and Larry inside a plastic tote bag.
Became angry with the child
Johnson allegedly tried to flee the scene when the first body was discovered but was detained by officers.
A witness who filmed the heavy police presence on the scene of stop told WBAL-TV he had no idea at the time what he was looking at.
‘There was a pile of like garbage next to [the car] and police around it,’ he said, adding that it was ‘heartbreaking’ to learn what had happened.
Johnson was taken into custody where she allegedly told police she had been driving round with Joshlyn’s body in the trunk of her care since May 2020.
Johnson allegedly told cops the little girl had died that month when they were staying at the Regal Inn on Pulaski Highway in Rosedale.
According to the charging documents, Johnson said she became angry with the 7-year-old and hit her several times, causing her to strike her head on the ground.
BREAKING UPDATE: We just spoke with a father who was driving home when he passed the traffic stop last night. He said he didn’t know what was happening and started recording simply b/c of the amount of @BaltCoPolice officers. He says he’s “shocked.” @wbaltv11 pic.twitter.com/xWW0kMB6B7
— Tre Ward (@TreWardWBAL) July 29, 2021
Exact cause of death yet to be determined
She claimed Joshlyn fell to the floor and hit her head so she stuffed her body in a suitcase in her car, the documents state.
Then, two months ago, Larry told her he was tired, lay down to sleep and never woke up again, Johnson told police.
She allegedly also said she noticed the 5-year-old had a wound on his left leg but provided no further detail on the cause of the injury.
The aunt said she then placed her nephew’s body in a tote bag next to the suitcase containing her niece, the documents state.
The remains of Joshlyn and Larry were taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner where cause of death will be established.
Due to the level of decomposition, authorities said it will take time to determine the exact circumstances that led to the children’s deaths so it is not yet clear if there is evidence to support Johnson’s version of events.
Joshlyn weighed just 18 pounds at her autopsy, less than half the 50 pound weight of an average, healthy seven-year-old girl.
Larry weighed just 21 pounds, down from the average 40 pound weight of a healthy five-year-old boy.
The child’s mother Dachelle Johnson had left the children in her sister’s care back in 2019, police said.
Justice for a 5 year old and 7 year old
Dachelle told investigators she had tried multiple times to contact her sister since but had not been able to find her or her children. It remained unclear why the mother hadn’t reached out to authorities.
Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt described the children’s deaths as ‘unspeakable’ and vowed to get justice for Joshlyn and Larry.
‘Tonight, the entire Baltimore County Police Department grieves with the community over the unspeakable deaths of two innocent children,’ said Hyatt.
‘The investigation into this atrocious crime will not stop until those responsible are brought to justice.’
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said the incident ‘is horrific and a heartbreaking loss of life.’
Authorities released the identities of the two children Thursday and announced the charges against Johnson Friday.
Johnson was booked with multiple charges including first degree child abuse that resulted in the death of a child under the age of 13, neglect, disposal of bodies and failure to report a death.
She waived her first appearance in Baltimore County District Court Friday where she was scheduled to appear for a bail review hearing.
The 33-year-old is now being held without bail.