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Jun 27, 2019 6:21 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

UPDATE: Mother Of Murdered Twins Had History Of Mental Illness, Told Grandmother Children Were Dead Hours Earlier

Tenia Campbell was arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.   KYRIL BROMLEY
Jun 28, 2019 4:38 PM

UPDATE: 2:45 P.M.

The grandmother of the two toddlers found dead in Montauk yesterday told police that her daughter had long suffered from mental illness and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was a teenager.

The woman, Vanessa McQueen, said that her daughter, Tenia Campbell, told her that the twin girls, both 2, were already dead, while Ms. Campbell was driving east from Medford more than two hours before police found her and the bodies of her daughters at Third House County Park in Montauk.

She was driving Ms. McQueen's blue Chrysler minivan and told her mother that she was heading for a beach, where she planned to kill herself.

"Tenia was hysterical crying, she kept saying she was sorry but she didn't want to live any more," Ms. McQueen said in a written statement to Suffolk County Police Department homicide detectives on Thursday evening. "I was trying to calm her down but she was yelling and crying and saying she couldn't live anymore and that she was going to kill herself and her babies.

"She said they are already dead, I killed them with my bare hands," Ms. McQueen's statement recalls of the 2 p.m. phone call.

The mother and daughter continued talking while Ms. Campbell drove east and Ms. McQueen said that after a while her daughter grew quieter and grew scared.

"She started asking me if I was coming to get her," Ms. McQueen said, noting that at that point Ms. Campbell told her she was in Montauk but didn't know exactly where.

Ms. McQueen called 911 while still on the phone with her distraught daughter and told emergency personnel the make and model of the car and gave them Ms. Campbell's cellphone number, which the police then used to locate the phone—which led East Hampton Town Police officers to the park where Ms. Campbell and her daughters were found.

UPDATE: 12:28 p.m.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said on Friday during a press conference at Suffolk County Police Headquarters in Yaphank that Ms. Campbell got out of her car at the entrance to Third House at Montauk County Park on Thursday and screamed at responding officers, telling them to shoot her.

Ms. Hart also said Ms. Campbell told police during a three-way call prior to stopping at the Montauk park that her twin daughters were already dead.

“This is a tough day,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at the press conference. “What happened yesterday is incomprehensible to us ... it’s unimaginable and beyond tragic.”

Ms. Hart said the three-way call between Ms. Campbell, her mother and the police was made shortly after the mother called 911 and said her daughter was threatening to kill herself and her twin 2-year-olds.

Ms. Campbell, who would not say where she was, was described as sounding “hysterical” during the call, Ms. Hart said.

An Amber Alert was initiated, but it did not get sent out because Ms. Campbell had already been found using GPS through her phone company.

The commissioner added that the twins were found in their car seats under cardiac arrest. Police would not say exactly how the chidren died, only that it was under investigation.

According to Ms. Hart, the twins showed no outward sign of trauma and autopsies were to be performed on Friday.

UPDATE: Friday, 10:40 a.m.

Ms. Campbell covered her face with her hands as she was led into East Hampton Town Justice Court to be arraigned on two counts of murder in the second degree on Friday morning, before East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky. The 24-year old healthcare aide, who cried as she stood in the courtroom, faces 25 to years to life in prison on each count.

Judge Tekulsky ordered her held, without bail, at the Suffolk County jail in Riverside. Ms. Campbell, dressed in a black dress and sandals, did not speak in court on Friday. Justice Tekulsky entered a "general denial" of the charges against Ms. Campbell on her behalf and ordered her to be held under special suicide and medical care watch.

Her case will be heard again in East Hampton Town Justice Court on July 3, after which it will be transferred to the Suffolk County Criminal Court, according to Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly, the head of the Suffolk County District Attorney's homicide bureau. Ms. Campbell will not be required to appear in court again until she is arraigned in the county court next month.

"Pursuant to the criminal procedure law of the State of New York, she is required to be remanded today and held for the action of the grand jury—that's all that happened today," Ms. Kelly said, speaking outside the East Hampton Justice Court on Friday morning. "The District Attorney's office is working in conjunction with the Suffolk County [Police Department] homicide squad."

Ms. Kelly said that Ms. Campbell will be held in a special section of the county jail for inmates who are considered a threat to themselves.

Ms. Campbell's third child, a young boy, is in the custody of his father, Ms. Kelly said.

UPDATE: Thursday, 11:30 p.m.

Suffolk County Police announced late on Thursday night that they had arrested Tenia Campbell, 24, of Medford, and charged her with second-degree murder in the deaths of her twin 2-year-old girls, Jasmine and Jaida Campbell.

Police said a woman called 911 at approximately 2:30 p.m. and told the operator that her daughter, Ms. Campbell, was threatening to kill herself and her daughters. The Suffolk County Police Department, assisted by the New York State Police, Suffolk County Park Rangers, Southampton Town Police and the East Hampton Town Police, conducted a county-wide search, and East Hampton Town police officers found Ms. Campbell at the entrance to Montauk County Park at Third House at approximately 4:05 p.m., according to county police. The officers took Ms. Campbell into custody and attempted life-saving efforts on her children, who were taken by Montauk Ambulance to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital ,where they were pronounced dead.

Ms. Campbell will be held overnight at the East Hampton Town Police Headquarters and arraigned at East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday, June 28.

Original Story

Twin 2-year-old girls were pronounced dead at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital on Thursday afternoon after they were found unconscious in their mother’s car in Montauk, following a search that spanned Suffolk County.

The children’s mother, a Medford woman who is now in police custody in East Hampton, had been reported as suicidal by a 911 caller earlier in the day, sparking the search.

The woman’s vehicle was located on Thursday afternoon by East Hampton Town Police in the vicinity of Third House at Montauk County Park and the children were found inside, suffering from cardiac arrest, according to the Suffolk Police Department Homicide Division.

Police officers and emergency personnel were seen performing CPR on the children as they were loaded in Montauk Fire Department ambulances and taken to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, with police escort.

Both girls were pronounced dead at the hospital.

Police have not yet identified the woman or the children or announced what charges, if any, are to be filed against the mother.

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