A Maryland woman was arrested this week after officers found the remains of two young children in her car.
According to the Baltimore County Government, the discovery was made during a Wednesday night traffic stop in Essex. The driver, 33-year-old Nicole Michelle Johnson, was reportedly pulled over for speeding; however, officers quickly determined the vehicle had fake West Virginia paper tags, and was both uninsured and unregistered.
CNN reports the officers then informed the woman that the car would be towed and she would have to appear in court in five days. According to police documents, Johnson responded with some unsettling comments.
“It don’t matter, I won’t be here in five days,” she told the officers. “Y’all going to see me on the news, y’all going to see me on the news making my big debut.”
Johnson then began removing items from her car as it was about to be towed. She eventually made her way to the trunk of the vehicle and removed plastic tote and a maggot-filled trash bag that had “the unmistakable odor of decomposition.” Officers ordered the woman to open the bag as well as the suitcase that was in it. Though Johnson allegedly claimed the case contained only blankets, she eventually opened it up and revealed the decomposing body of her seven-year-old niece Joshlyn Johnson.
Police say Johnson attempted to flee on foot, but was ultimately caught. They then opened the plastic tote and found the remains of Larry O’Neil—her five-year-old nephew who was also Joshlyn’s brother.
Johnson reportedly told investigators she took custody of the children in 2019, because her sister claimed she could no longer care for them. The woman said she had struck Joshlyn several times for misbehaving, causing the child to fall and hit her head. Johnson said she stored her niece’s body in the suitcase and been driving around with the remains every since.
As for her nephew Larry, Johnson told detectives she had noticed blood on the boy’s left leg one day and that he simply never woke up. She claimed she then placed the boy’s body in the trunk of her car alongside his sister.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
An autopsy revealed that Joshlyn and Larry weighed about 18 and 21 pounds, respectively, when they died. Baltimore officials say it “will take some time” before the exact causes of death are revealed.
Johnson is being held without bail on 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 as a misdemeanor. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 27.