The mother and daughter charged in the killing of five family members, including three children, found piled in a bedroom of a Morrisville, Pennsylvania apartment on Monday told police the entire family had discussed suicide and wanted to die before the series of slayings commenced, according to court documents released Tuesday morning.
Shana Selena Decree, 45, and Dominique Klaran Decree, 19, each face five counts of criminal homicide and one count of conspiracy to commit criminal homicide, according to the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office. The killings took place in a Morrisville, Pennsylvania apartment, just across the Delaware River from Trenton the family had been sharing.
The gruesome details of the killings emerged in an affidavit of probable cause filed along with the charges against Shana and Dominque Decree.
Two of the victims are Shana Decree’s children, Naa’Irah Smith, 25, and Damon Decree Jr., 13, both of Morrisville. The others are Shana Decree’s sister Jamilla Campbell, 42, of Trenton, and Campbell’s 9-year-old twin daughters, Imani and Erika Allen, authorities said.
The bodies were discovered Monday, after a Children and Youth services representatives from Bucks County arrived at the apartment on West Bridge Street at 4 p.m. for an unannounced well-being check, according to an affidavit of probable cause released by the district attorney’s office. She knocked, but no one came to the door, leading her to contact a maintenance worker at the complex.
According to the social services worker, eight people lived there, including multiple children.
The maintenance worker gained access to the apartment and called 911 at 4:16 p.m., describing a scene of disarray. He said he saw two disoriented people, later identified as Shana and Dominique Decree, in bed, according to the affidavit.
The mother and daughter were both taken to Jefferson hospital in Bucks County, and police arrived at the scene. They found overturned furniture, shards of broken glass and clutter littering the apartment. The child services worker said the apartment had appeared normal during a visit just three weeks before, the affidavit said.
Police walked past empty bedrooms and down a hallway, eventually finding four bodies scattered on and around a bed in the back bedroom. Under one of the bodies on the floor, police found a fifth body.
Police went to the hospital to speak to Shana and Dominique Decree. The 19-year-old had visible injuries to her neck, and said she initially denied knowing what had happened, the affidavit states. She asked if her family was alive, and kept saying she wanted to die, police said. She said that she lived at the apartment with her mother, sister and brother, as well as her aunt and two young cousins, police said.
When police spoke to Shana Decree, she, too, allegedly said she didn’t know what had happened, police said. But then she gave police an account, which she later contradicted, saying that Campbell’s boyfriend had come to the apartment with two other men and killed her five family members, police said.
Dominique Decree gave police a similar account, but her mother quickly changed her story, police said.
Shana Decree told officers that everyone at the apartment, even the children, wanted desperately to die, police said. They were all talking about suicide, according to the affidavit. She allegedly told police she killed one of the children, and then her sister, Campbell, killed another, and then killed Smith. Then Shana and Dominique Decree killed another child, and Dominique Decree killed Campbell, police said.
Dominique Decree provided yet another version, saying her mother had killed two of the children and Smith, before Campbell strangled the third child, police. Dominique Decree said she then strangled Campbell herself, police said.
The motive, and odd string of stories the mother and sister allegedly told police, have left authorities confused.
“We’ve been there since 4 p.m. yesterday and frankly, we’re still trying to sort everything out,” District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub said during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “As confusing as it was last night, we are no closer to understanding [the motive] in the harsh light of day.”
He said the causes of death have not yet been determined for the five victims.
As for the murder-suicide narrative put forth by the Decrees, he said investigators are continuing to look into it as “a potentiality,” given that the murder aspect was carried out.
The two accused and seven victims all lived in the “tiny” apartment, Weintraub said, along with Campbell’s son. He was found safe, and authorities believe he was not in the apartment during the slaying.
Shana Decree was arraigned on the charges early Tuesday morning and held without bail. Dominique Decree is expected to be arraigned later Tuesday.
Weintraub said he believed the charges against the two accused would likely remain the same, and that Dominique Decree was likely to be held without bail as well.
“I feel very confident that we have the two killers locked up who committed these atrocious, atrocious acts,” he said.
Get the latest updates right in your inbox. Subscribe to NJ.com’s newsletters.