Merritt Island man jailed on charges of kidnapping, human trafficking

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A Merritt Island man faces multiple charges, including human trafficking, after being accused of holding a woman hostage for about eight months, police said.

Robert Jeffrey Johnson Jr., 53, of Merritt Island was arrested by Cocoa Beach police Nov. 21 during a traffic stop for driving while his license was suspended, his arrest affidavit said. Numerous other charges, including one count of human trafficking, were added the following day after his arrest.

Cocoa police were called to Rockledge Regional Medical Center about 7 p.m. Nov. 20 regarding a sexual battery, according to Johnson's arrest affidavit.

An officer met with a woman, who told him that about eight months prior, she had been abducted by Johnson, the affidavit said. She told police while in Delaware, Johnson had approached her in his white Freightliner Cascadia semi-truck while she was walking along the road. Johnson asked if she needed help, and she responded by asking if he needed help, she told the police. She got into his vehicle.

When she told him she wanted to go home, he told her she didn't have one and called her a derogatory phrase, the affidavit said. The woman said Johnson then hit her with the back of his hand in the mouth, knocking out one of her front teeth.

The woman told police Johnson then drove hours away to pick up a shipment for transport in his truck with the woman still in his vehicle, the affidavit said. When he drove back to Delaware, he acted like he was going to let the woman out of the truck, she told police. However, when he did not let her out, an argument ensued, the woman said. She said he hit her, knocking out another front tooth.

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The woman told police Johnson threatened her with violence to keep her in the semi-truck and would sometimes point his gun at her and threaten to shoot her. The woman said she asked every day to leave the truck, but Johnson responded by threatening to hurt her.

On Nov. 18, the woman took Johnson's cell phone and sent a text asking for help. When Johnson found out, he threatened her with his gun, she said. He then dropped her off at the Flying J on Friday Road in Cocoa later that day.

An employee gave the woman a ride to Publix, where an ambulance was called to transport her to the hospital, the affidavit said.

Johnson "corroborated many statements and description of events as told by (the woman)," the affidavit said. He denied holding her against her will and said he was trying to help her. He also denied striking her and threatening her with a gun, and he would not confirm that he owns the gun the woman described.

Johnson told police he was romantically involved with (the woman) but that they are now only friends, the affidavit said.

The woman told police Johnson would sexually batter her inside the truck while a child was present.

Johnson told police he did not want to talk about the child, the affidavit said.

The woman said Johnson would use the child to keep tabs on her, and battered her numerous times in front of the child, the affidavit said.

The child was located and taken to Brevard Child Protection Team for a forensic interview, the affidavit said. The child said Johnson had sexually battered her on several occasions. She said the sexual battery began around August 2021 and stopped when Johnson met the woman.

The child said Johnson had threatened to kill her and anyone she told, the affidavit said. She said Johnson owns a gun.

The child was placed in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families, the affidavit said.

The affidavit stated the investigation is ongoing and charges are pending related to the child. It said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incidents that crossed state lines and possibly included international travel into Canada.

Johnson was charged with human trafficking, sexual battery of a victim over the age of 18, aggravated assault with a firearm, kidnapping, and two counts of false imprisonment. He is being held at Brevard County Jail without bond.

The office of the public defender, which, according to court documents is representing Johnson, could not be reached Tuesday.

Emily Walker is a Breaking News Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Walker at 321-290-4744 or elwalker@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @_emilylwalker

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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Human trafficking, kidnapping charges: FBI investigates Robert Johnson Jr.

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