'Unspeakable tragedy': Mom, teen daughter charged with killing five family members in Philadelphia suburb




 

MORRISVILLE, Pa. - A Pennsylvania woman and her teen daughter were charged and arraigned Tuesday in the deaths of five family members - including three children - following what law enforcement officials say is a possible murder-suicide.

The suspects, Shana S. Decree, 45, and Dominique Decree, 19, were taken into custody Monday after the bodies of five relatives were found inside a small apartment in suburban Philadelphia, authorities said.

Both admitted to choking victims in separate interviews with police, according to criminal complaints filed as part of the arrests.

The mother, Shana Decree, told police that everyone in the apartment, including the children, "wanted to die" and that they were all "talking about suicide."

The victims include Shana Decree's children, Naa'Irah Smith, 25, and Damon Decree Jr., 13, both of Morrisville; as well as Shana Decree's sister Jamilla Campbell, 45, of Trenton, and Campbell's 9-year-old twin daughters Imani and Erika Allen. Each lived in the same apartment with the suspects.

An emotional Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, called the deaths "an unspeakable tragedy" and paused as he discussed the deaths of the children.

Weintraub provided an update of the ongoing investigation at a Tuesday afternoon news conference, saying investigators have yet to determine a motive and are awaiting the coroner's report for a cause of death.

"As far as what the two defendants contemplated themselves, that would be purely speculation at this point," he said when asked if it were a murder-suicide case. "That is a potentiality though."

He noted that police were working some theories, "but it wouldn't be fair for me to speculate."

Shana Decree and Dominique Decree are charged with five counts of homicide and one count each of conspiracy in the deaths.

Shana Decree was jailed without bail following a preliminary arraignment early Tuesday morning, while her daughter was still receiving medical care to address injuries to her neck. The daughter was arraigned and jailed without bail Tuesday afternoon.

Start the day smarter: Get USA TODAY's Daily Briefing in your inbox

Campbell's 17-year-old son Joshua, who also resided in the apartment, was found on Tuesday. Weintraub said the teen is not a suspect in the deaths.

The bodies were discovered at about 4 p.m. Monday after a county social worker went to check on the welfare of residents at a unit in the Robert Morris Apartments in Morrisville, about 30 miles northeast of Philadelphia. A maintenance worked unlocked the apartment after there was no response to initial knocks.

Police were called to the apartment after two women described as "disoriented," later identified as the suspects, were found in a bed inside.

The apartment was found in disarray with broken glass and furniture turned over and clutter throughout, according to the criminal complaints.

Police found all five bodies in a separate bedroom toward the back of the apartment.

One of the bodies, a male, was found face up with his head toward the foot of the bed and his right foot through the wall of the bedroom. The other four bodies were found in various spots on the floor, including one female found in a seated position against the bed and another female found under a body.

The two suspects agreed to speak with police without lawyers present, according to the complaint.

Both the mother and daughter initially denied involvement, but then each admitted to choking some of the victims. Their accounts differ somewhat on who killed whom. Each said Campbell participated in the killings before Dominique Decree choked and killed Campbell.

Weintraub declined to discuss what the suspects said to officers, adding that there are no additional suspects in the case.

"I just cannot comment on any statements that they might have made. We just feel very confident that we have the two killers locked up that committed these atrocious, atrocious murders."

The community reacted with shock Tuesday as police scoured the crime scene. The Robert Morris Apartments are a three-story, red-brick complex on a busy road lined with auto repair shops and a safe-and-lock shop and a bail bonds agency nearby.

Nicole Owens, a resident of the apartment building and friend of the family, watched as police took garbage bags from the building. She said she had been under the impression that the family was close-knit.

"It's very eerie," she said. "Scary. Shocking."

The crime is all people are talking about, said Pat O'Neill, an employee at nearby Canal Laundry.

O'Neill recalls seeing Shana Decree wash her clothes at the laundromat.

When a customer told her about the news Tuesday morning, O'Neill initially thought the person was joking. While drugs have been an issue in the area, she's never heard of homicides in the 12 years she's lived in Morrisville.

"You wouldn't expect a mother and daughter to do this," she said.

Thai Hall, 24, grew up in the Robert Morris Apartments. Her mother still lives there, in an apartment near where the crime occurred.

Hall said her mother knew the family, often exchanging pleasantries in the hallway. Hall, who now lives in Bristol, and her mother learned of murders on the news last night. Her mother hasn't been able to sleep since, she said.

Hall went to school with Naa'Irah Smith, who was killed. Though they weren't close friends, Hall described Smith as a "very pretty girl" who loved makeup. She kept to herself and "wanted to be successful."

Morrisville, a town of less 9,000 people, is a quiet place, Hall said. Nothing exciting happens here, she added.

Kim Bachmann, a cashier at Ben's Morrisville Deli, said Morrisville still has its small-town charm. Loyal customers wait outside every morning for the deli to open.

But she also feels crime has increased in recent years because of the town's proximity to Trenton, which has struggled with the opioid crisis and drug trafficking.

"Like any place in America, there are good parts and bad parts," she said. She can't recall a crime of this magnitude, though.

Hall can't remember any violence in the apartment buildings or surrounding neighborhood - until now.

"How could this happen?" Hall said. "To your own children, to your sister, your nieces. It's just sad."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Unspeakable tragedy': Mom, teen daughter charged with killing five family members in Philadelphia suburb

COMMENTS

More Related News

The Latest: 2 charged in huge cocaine bust at Philly port
The Latest: 2 charged in huge cocaine bust at Philly port
  • US
  • 2019-06-18 22:35:49Z

Two members of a container ship's crew face federal drug charges after agents raided their vessel at a Philadelphia port and seized about 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) of cocaine. Court documents filed Tuesday charge Ivan Durasevic and Fonofaavae Tiasage with conspiracy to possess cocaine aboard a ship subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

Over 16 tons of cocaine intercepted at Philadelphia port
Over 16 tons of cocaine intercepted at Philadelphia port
  • US
  • 2019-06-18 20:40:34Z

U.S. authorities seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine Tuesday from a ship at a Philadelphia port, calling it one of the largest drug busts in American history. The U.S. attorney's office in Philadelphia announced the massive bust on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, saying law enforcement agents seized about 16.5 tons (15 metric tons) of cocaine from a large ship at the Packer Marine Terminal. The drug seizure is the latest in a series of large cocaine busts along the East Coast.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America

facebook
Hit "Like"
Don't miss any important news
Thanks, you don't need to show me this anymore.