A Baltimore aunt is accused of driving with the dead body of her 7-year-old niece stashed in a suitcase in the truck for about a year, and the body of her 5-year-old nephew beside it since May.
Nicole Johnson, 33, was charged with multiple counts of neglect and child abuse charges, as well as failing to report the deaths to authorities and unauthorized disposal of bodies in the connection to the death of her niece, Joshlyn Marie James Johnson and nephew, Larry Darnell O'Neal, following a traffic stop on Wednesday (July 28), Baltimore County Police announced in a statement on Thursday (July 29).
Police said the siblings combined to weigh just 21 and 18 pounds and were likely malnourished prior to their deaths. The department transported their bodies to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the cause of their deaths.
“This truly was a devastating incident,” Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said on Friday afternoon, noting that the findings shocked the community and had a significant impact on the county’s patrol officers, forensic technicians, and detectives involved in the investigation.
Charing documents state that Johnson told detectives her sister, Dachelle Johnson, asked her to look after the children in 2019 when she was unable to provide care for them, WJZ reports.
The documents allege Nicole Johnson had grown angry with Joshlyn and hit the child several times, which resulted in the 7-year-old girl hitting her head.
Johnson allegedly told police she put her niece's body in a suitcase, which was then stashed in the trunk of her car in May 2020 until the time of the traffic stop.
Johnson said she later stashed Larry's body in a bag, which was then placed alongside Joshlyn's a year later, but didn't provide details about how or when the 5-year-old.
A probable cause statement obtained by the Baltimore Sun initially issued a citation to appear in court after police noticed Johnson was driving with unauthorized tags and registration on her car, as well as without a driver's license.
An officer allegedly told Johnson the car would be towed and she responded, "It don't matter, I won't be here in five days."
"Y'all going to see me on the news making my big debut," she reportedly added.
The responding officer reported smelling the decomposing bodies while preparing the vehicle to be towed and Johnson attempted to flee the scene when the officer opened the trunk and noticed the first body in a suitcase, as well as the second in a plastic bag, according to police documents.
Police documents stated Dachelle made repeated attempts to reach her sister after leaving her children in her care in 2019, but had been unsuccessful in finding them until being notified of their deaths.
Baltimore County Police are continuing to investigate the incident.