For about a year, a Baltimore woman reportedly drove a car with a horrible secret: the corpse of her 7-year-old niece stashed in a suitcase in the trunk. Then, in May, she allegedly broke the trunk lid to throw the body of her 5-year-old nephew next door.
It was only months later that police discovered the decomposing bodies of siblings Joshlyn Marie James Johnson and Larry Darnell O’Neal.
Baltimore County Police said in a report On Thursday night, they were mourning the “untold dead” after discovering the children’s bodies when they arrested Nicole Johnson, 33, during a traffic stop on Wednesday night.
Police say the brother and sister, weighing just 21 and 18 pounds respectively, were likely undernourished before their deaths, WBAL reported. Their fragile bodies were brought to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office to determine the cause of death. Johnson was charged on Friday with negligence and abuse which resulted in death.
“It was truly a devastating incident,” Chief Melissa Hyatt said Friday afternoon, adding that it shocked the community and had a significant impact on patrollers, forensic technicians and county detectives.
In charge documents obtained from local points of sale, police allege Johnson told detectives his sister, Dachelle Johnson, asked him to look after the children in 2019 when she was unable to care for them.
The documents allege that Johnson said she got angry with Joshlyn over a year ago, hitting her niece repeatedly, which resulted in her banging her head. Johnson reportedly told police she put her niece’s body in a suitcase in her car in May 2020, where it has remained since.
She reportedly told police that Larry’s body was put in a bag next to Joshlyn’s a year later, without providing details of how or when he died.
Johnson has been charged with multiple counts of child neglect and abuse, as well as failing to report the deaths to authorities and the unauthorized disposal of their bodies.
According to a probable cause statement obtained by the Baltimore SunJohnson initially received a court summons after cops noticed unauthorized tags and registration on her car and discovered she was driving without a license.
The car would be towed, an officer reportedly told Johnson.
It is then, the Sun reported, that Johnson told the officer, “It doesn’t matter, I won’t be here in five days.”
“You’re all going to see me on the news making my big debut,” she reportedly added.
The officer smelled the rotting bodies while preparing the car for towing, according to police documents. Johnson attempted to flee the scene when the officer opened the safe and discovered the first body in a suitcase before discovering a second in a plastic bag, according to the documents. Johnson was then taken into custody.
A neighbor, Dani Medley, told WBAL that she didn’t feel anything was wrong.
“They always seemed happy. When the young woman dropped them off, they never looked like something was wrong. They always seemed to be happy kids with a lot of energy, ”Medley said. “For someone who has been caring for children for 20 years, I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine.”
Police documents say Dachelle made multiple attempts to reach her sister after leaving her son and daughter in the care of their aunt in 2019, but failed to locate them until she was informed of their death, the Sun reported.
Baltimore Police are still reviewing the details of the case to determine what prompted the children to end up in their aunt’s trunk.
“Due to the nature of this case, it will take time to determine the exact circumstances that led to the deaths of the children,” Baltimore law enforcement said Friday.