A youth social services agency performed a welfare check days before the bodies of five family members were discovered slain inside a suburban Philadelphia apartment, Philadelphia station WVPI reported.
Shana Decree, 45, and her daughter, Dominique Decree, 19, were arraigned Tuesday after the pair confessed to killing their relatives in what investigators believe was part of a mass suicide plot. The victims included Shana Decree’s children, Naa’Irah Smith, 25, and Damon Decree Jr., 13, of Morrisville, Pa., along with Decree’s younger sister Jamilla Campbell, 42 and Campbell’s 9-year-old twin daughters, Erika and Imani Allen.
The mother-daughter duo is charged with five counts of murder and a count of conspiracy charges as police work to determine a motive for the heinous killings. A criminal complaint suggests the relatives were murdered between Saturday and Monday but did not provide a reason for the welfare check, for which the Decrees didn’t answer the door.
“As confusing as it was last night, we are no closer to understanding that in the harsh light of day,” Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub said on Tuesday. “We’ll continue to pursue every lead and to work this case to its just conclusion.”
According to police, Shana Decree initially told authorities that her sister’s boyfriend and two unknown men had stormed their Bucks County apartment and killed everyone except her daughter. She later changed her story to say that “everyone at the apartment wanted to die” and had been talking about suicide.
She added that one of the victims, Jamilla Campbell had killed two other relatives before being slain herself.
The elder Decree confessed to killing at least one of the children and accused Campbell of murdering Smith. Dominque’s account of the slayings was slightly different, telling police that she helped her mother kill the 13-year-old, Smith and one of the twin girls. She said she then strangled Campbell to death after Campbell had killed the other twin, an affidavit revealed.
The victim’s bodies were discovered Monday in a room at the apartment where police arrived after receiving a call from a social worker with DHS who’d gone to the family’s apartment to check on them. The social worker reported that the two suspects were “disoriented” and appeared to be under the influence of something.
Police said Dominique had visible injuries to her neck and, at first, denied knowing what happened, as did her mother. Investigators said they now have a clearer picture of what unfolded, but are still working on the why.
Destiny Harris, a half-sister of Campbell twin girls, told 6ABC that the family was heavily influenced by religion.
“They were all going through something religiously and they decided to drag the kids into it,” Harris said.
Damon Decree Sr., Shana’s ex-husband and Dominique’s father, backed up this claim, saying the family was involved in a cult and had been “talking about demons being all around them.”
“Apparently they had dissected into some type of cult that they materialized online,” he told the station. “I don’t know how or what kind of cult.”
Harris argued that the twins, who were set to celebrate their 10th birthday on Friday, should have never been involved in whatever the other relatives were practicing.
“They didn’t deserve that, they didn’t need to go through that,” she said. “They’re too young, they’re too young to understand. They had no choice.”
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