Two people have been arrested in connection with the murder of a mother, two of her children and her female partner in Troy, New York, police said early Saturday.
The identities of the people arrested were not immediately released. Troy Police Capt. Dan DeWolf said in an email that both defendants are due to be arraigned Saturday morning and more information about the offenses each is charged with will be released.
The bodies of Shanta Myers, 36, her 11-year-old son Jeremiah, her 5-year-old daughter Shanise, and 22-year-old Brandi Mells were found in their basement apartmentthe day after Christmas. Myers had a 15-year-old son who was out of town on a retreat at the time of the murders.
DeWolf previously declined to discuss details of the crime scene but law enforcement sources told the Albany Times Union that the victims were bound and their throats were slit.
"After being in this business for almost 42 years I can't describe the savagery of a person like this," Police Chief John Tedesco said this week as police searched for the killer.
Police have said a preliminary investigation of the crime scene suggested the victims were targeted.
Myers' family described her as a good-natured woman who could not have done anything to provoke such violence.
"She is so sweet," her sister, Shakera Symes, told NBC News. "She goes out of her way to want to be loved. She wouldn't be involved in anything that would be close to deserving this. She's very mild-mannered."
Myers' big joy was cooking for family gatherings. "She always had one of the biggest dishes. You would see her out there frying up empanadas," Symes said.
"She just loved to be included in family events, but over the last year, she kind of isolated herself as she got into a relationship," she added.
Mells was originally from Newark, New Jersey, but moved to upstate New York as a teenager, said close friend Dria Hector. She was living in Troy with her mother when she met Myers.
"She was a little person but her heart was bigger than she was," Hector said of Mells, who had dwarfism. "She was very real, she spoke the truth. She was a sweet person, but she could have her bad days, like we all do.'
She said she met Myers' youngest child a few months ago and recalled how the 5-year-old played with and tried to feed her own 2-year-old daughter.
"She was so, so sweet," she said. "She had a big personality."
Jeremiah, who was known as JJ, was very involved in the Boys and Girls Club in Troy, where he took part in the afterschool program and played on the basketball team.
"He was such a radiant kid that everybody knew him," said Hollyanne Buntich, human resources director for the club, which has started a fundraising campaign for the family. "He was a ray of sunshine."
Symes said she expected to hear from Jeremiah last Friday because he usually called her to chat when he didn't have school. But the call never came, and the family never showed up at her house for Christmas, as expected.
Then came the terrible news the following day.
"I can't understand why somebody wanted to do something like that," Symes said.