Tenia Campbell, 24, appeared in court yesterday for her arraignment on two counts each of first degree and second degree murder. If convicted, she faces the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole. She remained silent during the proceedings aside from identifying herself when asked to do so.
Her attorney, John Halverson, asked the court for a psychiatric evaluation of his client, and entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf before Criminal Court Judge Richard Ambro. He has made it clear that he intends to focus on his client's mental health in her defense. Judge Ambro ordered that she be held without bail and that the suicide watch she was initially placed under when taken into custody on the 27th of June be continued.
27East quoted Halverson as saying, “I think the act speaks for itself. Any mother alleged to have harmed her children is not in the right state of mind.” Outside of the courtroom, Halverson stated that his client's history of mental illness is the "main issue in this case."
On July 27th, Campbell's mother, Vanessa McQueen called police to notify them that her daughter intended to commit suicide and to end the lives of her twin girls, Jaida and Jasmine. Police began a three-way call between the mother, Campbell and themselves, that lasted for 12 minutes in order to get Campbell's location. But by the time that police found her, near the road at a Montauk park asking Police to shoot her, it was too late for the girls. They were strapped into their car-seats in cardiac arrest and were pronounced dead a short time later at a nearby hospital.
Campbell has another child, a four year old boy that was located safe during attempts to locate Campbell on the 27th. He was found unharmed and is now in the custody of his father.
In a police statement issues on the 28th, McQueen stated that during the three-way conversation, her daughter kept apologizing, saying that the girls were already dead. Allegedly Campbell said that she had suffocated them with her bare hands. Her mother went on to explain that Cambell had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teenager and battled with depression and anxiety her entire life.
“The medical examiner has determined that they were killed with homicidal violence, consistent with manual asphyxia … whether that’s by hand, by pillow or some other manner,” Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly said during the arraignment. “I can only tell you that the defendant herself indicated that she did it with her own hands.” Kelly does not agree that Campbell was in some kind of mental distress when she killed her children. “I think the facts bear out a woman who knew exactly what she was doing, why she was doing it, and that she did it intentionally and her statements certainly support that.”
Campbell is due back in court on August 7th.