The aunt of two children, ages 7 and 5, who were found dead in the trunk of a car during a Wednesday traffic stop near Baltimore had been driving around with their deceased bodies for months before she was arrested.
Nicole M. Johnson, 33, faces multiples charges, including neglect and first-degree child abuse that resulted in the death of a child under the age of 13, for the deaths of Joshlyn Johnson, 7, and 5-year-old Larry O’Neil, both siblings.
She was initially pulled over at 11 p.m. by officers from the Baltimore County Police Department’s Essex precinct for speeding. The vehicle had fake paper tags from West Virginia and was unregistered and uninsured, Fox affiliate WBFF-TV reported.
As she was being issued a citation, Johnson allegedly told an officer: “It don’t matter, I won’t be here in five days,” and “Y’all going to see me on the news, y’all going to see me on the news making my big debut.”
The bodies of the children were found as the car was being prepared to be towed. When Johnson went to the trunk of the car to gather her belongings, an officer smelled “the unmistakable odor of decomposition,” according to the news outlet.
When she removed a plastic sheet and trash bag, the officer noticed maggots in the bag and told her to remove the blankets inside the bag, which revealed a suitcase. In the luggage was the body of one of the children.
Nicole Johnson, 33, faces multiple charges in connection with the deaths of her niece and nephew, who were found dead during a police traffic stop. (Baltimore County Police Department )
Johnson attempted to run and was caught a short time later. The other child was found in the plastic bag, authorities said.
One of the children had been in the trunk of the vehicle since May 2020, according to court documents reported by the station.
“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,” Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa 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.”
Investigators are still trying to determine how the children died.
Johnson told investigators she became angry at one of the children in May 2020 and hit her several times, causing the child to fall and hit her head. Her body was placed in the suitcase, authorities said.
She said the other child became injured two months ago and never recovered and died. She put both bodies in the trunk of her car. At the time of their deaths, Joshlyn Johnson weighed 18 pounds and O’Neil weighed 21 pounds.
Nicole Johnson said her sister turned her children over to her because she could not care for them. She had moved with her children from Ohio to Maryland in July 2019, court documents said.
“I’ll never get to see my kids because a mistake I made in trusting my sister I wish I could take it back but I can’t,” the mother wrote in a Facebook post, the outlet reported. “I was in the process of getting them back when she just disappeared. I still trusted her and didn’t want to think the worse. This is my blood sister she’s was my family.”