Two people have been arrested in the quadruple homicide that took the lives of two women and two children in their upstate New York apartment.
Justin Mann, 24, and James White, 38, were arraigned in Troy City Court around 8.30am Saturday after being arrested Friday night. Both men face four counts each of second-degree and one count each of first-degree murder.
According to CBS 6’s Steve Maugeri, both Mann and White have entered ‘not guilty’ pleas. Their preliminary hearings will be held January 4.
Isaiah Smith, 15, who was not home at the time was the sole survivor of the homicide in Troy.
The teenager’s mother Shanta Myers, 36; his brother Jeremiah, 11; and sister, Shanise, five, were found tied up with their throats slashed alongside Shanta’s lesbian girlfriend Brandi Mells, 22, inside their basement apartment on Tuesday by the building’s property manager, reported Spectrum News.
Troy Police Chief James Tedesco revealed at a press conference on Saturday morning that the crime appeared to have been committed around 9pm on December 21 – meaning the victims had been dead for nearly five days.
Additionally, it was revealed that one of the defendants was acquainted with one of the victims but further information could not be given ‘because the investigation is ongoing’.
According to The Daily Beast, Mells was friends with Mann, who has now been charged with killing her and her girlfriend’s family.
Department of Corrections records show Mann was released on parole in June after being convicted of first-degree robbery in 2014. Chief Tedesco revealed that both men had criminal records but declined to comment on their previous charges.
Additionally, The Daily Beast said that Mann was friends with one of the victims, Brandi Mells, prior to the killing.
‘I never seen him before a day in my life, neither of them,’ Shanta Myers’s nephew, Khalif Coleman, told The Daily Beast. ‘But some of my family members recognize him as Brandi’s friend. He supposedly always hung out with her.’
District Attorney Joel Abelove said that during the arraignment the defendants were given notices of intent to present the case to a grand jury
Being convicted of the first-degree murder charge comes with a maximum sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Isaiah, the sole survivor of the crime who was away in Massachusetts, said he was scared that the suspects were ‘coming for [him] next,’ he told the Times Union.
Speaking about the moment he found out about his family he said ‘Couldn’t believe it. Heartbroken. I fell down to the ground right in the bathroom and cried thinking who would’ve done this?’ reported CBS6.
Before the arrests, his aunt Shakera Symes, the sister of 36-year-old victim Shanta, appealed to the public. ‘Give the information to the authorities so that they can help find the person who has destroyed us, emotionally, mentally. It feels like somebody has ripped us to shreds,’ she said.
‘My sister was supposed to be with me and her children, all three of them for Christmas. And I got robbed of that,’ she emotionally told reporters.
She said her and the rest of the family are completely and utterly heartbroken. ‘It feels like somebody ripped us to shreds and we only have each other right now and we are grasping and holding on to each other for dear life.’
Isaiah fondly remembered his younger brother saying he followed him around everywhere. ‘It got to the point where I’d be in the bathroom and he’d be on the other side talking to me like ‘bro what are you about to do after this?’ and I’d be like ‘I don’t know!” he joked.
Apparently Jeremiah dreamed of playing for the Boston Celtics in the NBA one day and had also been a member of the Troy Boys & Girls Club for six years.
‘He was the quintessential ‘Club Kid’ who impacted the lives of so many staff, children and teens, parents and volunteers,’ the club said in a statement.
‘It will be deeply felt by all his friends at the club and throughout our community.’
His younger sister, Shanise, had a passion for cooking and apparently was wise beyond her years. ‘That girl was like a grown woman in a little body,’ her Uncle Khalif Coleman said. ‘You ain’t telling that girl what to do, she will be in your face.’
Her Aunt Symes said she was going to have the youngster cook spaghetti as part of their Christmas meal. She told Symes ‘Auntie I know how to make spaghetti.’
The Victory Christian Church of Albany had offered a $5,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
Law enforcement sources claim the family appear to have been targeted for an unknown reason, while Troy Police Chief James Tedesco told the paper the murders were an abominable act of ‘savagery.’
Tedesco noted the slayings were not a random act of violence and characterized the quadruple homicide as the worst he has seen yet. ‘After being in this business for almost 42 years, I can’t describe the savagery of this. I don’t have the word,’ he said.
‘There are indications at the crime scene that this was not a random act,’ Tedesco told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
Autopsies completed on Wednesday afternoon are expected to clarify the timeline of attacks and exactly how the victims were killed.
Police found a bloody knife on a ledge near a closet, and a second blade on a bed near the victims, reported he Times Union.
Reportedly, investigators were able to narrow down the list of suspects to Mann and White after reviewing security camera footage from the city of Troy.
‘The emotions of a police officer is something you repress because there is a job to be done,’ Tedesco said.
‘But no one involved in this case is ever going to forget it. Right now our job is to bring this person to justice.’
Based on evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation, police do not believe there is imminent danger to the community.
Troy Police Captain Daniel DeWolf said earlier that the deaths were ‘certainly suspicious.’
The unit where the bodies were found is one of five in a home located in a residential neighborhood along the Hudson River’s east bank, just north of Albany.