Nicole Michelle Johnson faces child abuse, other charges connected to the deaths of a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy
The bodies of a girl and boy were found in the trunk of a Baltimore woman’s car during what first seemed to be a routine traffic stop on Thursday, according to CNN. The children are the niece and nephew of the woman, who is currently being held without bail.
Nicole Michelle Johnson, 33, was pulled over for speeding by a police officer, who discovered she was driving with a fake temporary tag, no license, and no insurance. As Johnson removed things from the car trunk before the vehicle was towed, the officer smelled what he believed was “decomposition odor,” as stated in charging documents and he asked Johnson about the items.
It was then discovered that inside the trunk, Johnson had a plastic tote bag filled with maggots and a suitcase. When the suitcase was opened, the decomposing body of a girl was inside.
The officer also found inside of the plastic tote bag a garbage bag that contained a second decomposing body, this one a boy. Johnson attempted to flee when the officers uncovered the girl’s body, but she was caught and arrested.
The bodies were Johnson’s niece and nephew; Joshlyn Marie James Johnson, 7, and 5-year-old Larry Darnell O’Neil.
According to the Baltimore Sun, Johnson told detectives that she had been taking care of the children since May 2019 when their mother, Dachelle Johnson, moved from Ohio to Maryland leaving them with their aunt.
“I wish it was me instead. I wish I didn’t wake up tomorrow,” Dachelle Johnson wrote on her Instagram page, the Sun reported. She told police she had tried to pick her children up several times but was unable to reach Nicole after she didn’t show up for an arranged meeting in March. Dachelle was informed of her children’s death by the police.
Nicole told detectives that one night in May 2020, she had hit Joshlyn multiple times after getting angry with her, causing her to fall and hit her head on the floor. She then put Joshlyn’s body in a suitcase and has been carrying it in her trunk since then.
Johnson said this past May, O’Neil laid down to sleep, saying that he was tired, and never woke up. Johnson then put her nephew’s body in a bag and also placed it in her trunk. She disclosed that he had a wound on his leg when he went to sleep, but doesn’t know where it came from. An autopsy revealed that Joshlyn and Larry were 18 and 21 pounds, respectively.
Baltimore County Police Department wrote in charging documents, “According to doctors, it would have taken several months of malnourishment to attain these weights.”
According to Danielle Smith, aunt of a family friend, Johnson had been homeless for some time, going from one hotel to the next. The May 2020 incident that led to Joshlyn’s death happened at the Regal Inn in Rosedale.
Though friends say that Johnson was known as a ‘kind’ person and was trusted with children, in Nov. 2017, she called police to a Maryland hotel room where they found her alone with a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old who were in diapers, according to the Sun.
There was a knife in the room, it was described in a police report as being “in disarray” and police believed at the time that cigarillo baggies and Ziploc baggies indicated there was drug packaging going on. Though the kids were unharmed, Johnson was charged with reckless endangerment and contributing to conditions that leave a child delinquent or in need of supervision. On the scene, police recommended the children be placed with Child Protection Services.
It was unclear if they were related to Johnson, per the Sun, or what the final result was in the case.
In this case, CNN reports that Johnson was charged with two counts each of first-degree felony child abuse, first-degree felony child abuse resulting in death; misdemeanor neglect of a minor; misdemeanor failure to report the death of a child; and the unauthorized burial of a body. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for August 27.
According to The Hill, Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt made a statement about the arrest.
“This truly was a devastating incident — one that not only shocked our community to its core, but significantly affected our patrol officers, forensic technicians, and detectives,” Hyatt said. “I am grateful that the harrowing details of this case were thoroughly and quickly uncovered, resulting in an expeditious closure to this tragedy. I want to commend all of our Baltimore County Police Department members who worked tirelessly throughout this investigation to bring justice to these innocent, young victims.”
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