Baltimore police: Aunt stashed bodies of niece, nephew in car for months

BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — A Maryland woman drove with the body of her niece in the trunk of her car for more than a year, and then in May put the girl’s dead brother next to her decomposing body, according to court documents.

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Nicole Michelle Johnson, 33, of Baltimore, was charged with neglect, failure to report the death of her niece and nephew, disposal of their bodies and child abuse resulting in the death of the children, The Baltimore Sun reported, citing charging documents.

The bodies of Joshlyn Marie James Johnson, 7, and Larry Darnell O’Neal, 5, were discovered just after 11 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, WBFF reported. Officers conducted a traffic stop when the bodies were found, the television station reported.

According to charging documents, Johnson later told police the girl’s body had been in the trunk of the car since May 2020, and the boy’s body was placed next to her two months ago, The Sun reported.

A statement of probable cause said Johnson was the children’s aunt and had been entrusted to care for them since 2019, according to The Sun.

Johnson had been pulled over for speeding, and the car she was driving had fake paper tags from West Virginia, WMAR reported. The vehicle was also not registered and Johnson had no insurance, the television station reported.

According to charging documents, Johnson told the officer after receiving citations that “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.”

When the officer cleared the trunk for the vehicle to be towed, he smelled decomposition from plastic bags, The Sun reported.

According to police, the bag contained maggots and a suitcase, WMAR reported. When it was opened, police discovered the decomposing body of Johnson’s niece. An autopsy revealed the girl had been malnourished and weighed 18 pounds, the television station reported.

Police then discovered a bag inside the plastic bag, which contained the decomposed body of her nephew, according to WBAL. The boy weighed just 21 pounds, according to an autopsy.

According to charging documents, Johnson said that in May 2020, she was staying at a motel in Rosedale when she became angry with her niece and hit her several times, causing the child to hit her head on the floor, The Sun reported. Johnson told police she put the girl’s body in her car, the newspaper reported.

In May 2021, Johnson said that O’Neal told her he was tired. The boy went to sleep and never woke up, she told detectives. She told detectives the boy had a wound on his left leg but did not elaborate, WBFF reported. Johnson said she put O’Neal’s body in a tote bag and placed him next to his sister’s body, the television station reported.

The children’s mother, Dachelle Johnson, confirmed to investigators that she left her son and daughter with her sister, the television station reported. Dachelle Johnson had moved to Maryland from Ohio in July 2019, according to WBFF. She said she was unable to get in touch with Nicole Johnson until March 2021, WMAR reported.

“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.”

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