Two men were arrested and charged with murder in a quadruple homicide in Upstate New York that police have called “an act of savagery.”
James W. White and Justin C. Mann each face one count of murder in the first degree, which carries a maximum penalty of life without the possibility of parole, and four counts of murder in the second degree. Both suspects, from Schenectady, N.Y., were arraigned in Troy City Court on Saturday, with the next court appearance scheduled for Jan. 4.
The day after Christmas, police found the bodies of 36-year-old Shanta Myers; two of her children, Shanise Myers, 5, and Jeremiah “JJ” Myers, 11; and her partner, 22-year-old Brandi Mells, inside a basement apartment in Troy, N.Y.
The four were killed Dec. 21, and one of the defendants was acquainted with one of the victims, Troy Police Chief John Tedesco said at a news conference Saturday.
From the beginning, police, who have not provided details about the deaths, described the case as a horrific crime.
“After being in this business for almost 42 years, I can’t describe the savagery of this,” Tedesco told reporters Wednesday.
“Nobody that’s been involved in this case is going to ever forget this, I can tell you that,” he added.
The killings had left Myers’s relatives and her 15-year-old son broken and desperate for answers.
Myers’s sister, Shakera Symes, had implored any potential witnesses to speak with authorities to find “the person who has destroyed us, emotionally, mentally,” according to the Times Union.
“It feels like somebody has ripped us to shreds,” Symes told the Albany newspaper.
Myers’s son, Isaiah Smith, was away when he heard what happened to his mother, brother and sister — and said he feared for his own life.
“I’m scared to go to the corner store,” he told reporters, according to the Times Union. “I’m not sure if they’re coming for me next.”
On Saturday, Tedesco said the police do not have a motive for the killings but are confident that there will not be any additional arrests, even though the investigation continues. Police said autopsies would be conducted Wednesday, but results have not been released.
The apartment building’s property manager discovered the bodies Tuesday afternoon after being contacted by concerned family members who said the victims were not answering phone calls. Police responded to the building on Second Avenue in Troy, a city eight miles northeast of Albany, about 12:50 p.m.
Though police had said they didn’t believe there was an imminent danger to the community, the crime shook the neighborhood.
Jackie Robinson Sr., a pastor at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Troy, told the Times Union that there are “certainly reasons to be fearful.”
“We don’t know who did it,” Robinson said. “Until we find out, it certainly makes sense to be vigilant and keep your doors locked.”
Family members told reporters at the Boys & Girls Club on Thursday that Myers was mild-mannered and always willing to help someone, usually by offering to cook a tasty meal. Her 5-year-old daughter loved cooking, too, so the family agreed to let her cook spaghetti as part of their Christmas meal.
“That girl was like a grown woman in a little body,” her cousin, Khalif Coleman, told reporters, according to the Times Union.
Jeremiah, the family said, dreamed of playing for the Boston Celtics.
“He was a quintessential ‘Club Kid’ who impacted the lives of so many staff, children and teens, parents and volunteers,” the Boys & Girls Club said in a statement posted on a GoFundMe page that is raising money to cover the funeral and memorial costs. “We are shocked and deeply saddened by this tragedy. It will be deeply felt by all his friends at the Club and throughout the community.”
The Troy City School District, where the two children attended classes, will be offering grief counseling to students, Superintendent John Carmello wrote in a letter to parents.
“Our hearts are broken and our thoughts and deepest condolences are with their family and loved ones during this terribly troubling time,” Carmello wrote.