New Jersey

Autopsies Reveal Manners of Death in 5 Killed in Bucks County Apartment

The victims, including 9-year-old twins, were discovered inside a Morrisville apartment during a welfare check Monday

What to Know

  • A mother and daughter have been charged with killing five family members in a Bucks Co. apartment. The mom claims the family "wanted to die.
  • Shana Decree, 45, and her daughter Dominique Decree, 19, are both charged with homicide and conspiracy.

The Bucks County coroner issued autopsies Friday in the deaths of five people inside a Morrisville, Bucks County, home Feb. 25, determining that four died of asphyxiation and one died of strangulation.

Two of the victims' relatives — 45-year-old Shana Decree, and her 19-year-old daughter, Dominique Decree — are charged with five counts of criminal homicide and criminal conspiracy.

The victims were identified as two of Shana Decree's other children, Naa'Irah Smith, 25, and Damon Decree Jr., 13, both of Morrisville; Shana Decree's sister, Jamilla Campbell, 42, of Trenton, New Jersey; and Campbell's 9-year-old twin daughters, Imani and Erika Allen.

Bucks County authorities have declined to elaborate on a motive for the five murders, but Shana Decree offered a haunting statement to police last month at the time of her arrest: They "wanted to die," she said of her relatives.

Shana Decree and Dominique Decree
Bucks County DA

Officials discovered the gruesome scene in a small first-floor apartment located on the 200 block of West Bridge Street in Morrisville, near the Delaware River. The bodies were discovered by the building manager after a Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services Agency representative attempted to perform a well-being check on the family. 

Officers who later arrived on the scene found the apartment in "disarray" and bodies scattered throughout one bedroom. Broken glass and turned-over furniture littered the three-bedroom apartment, officials said.

Some of the victims were lying in beds while others were sitting upright, according to the affidavit. One had his foot through the wall and into another bedroom.

"The investigation into these murders continues with one goal: justice for five people killed in Bucks County. We are committed to seeking justice for Erika, Imani, Damon, Naa’Irah and Jamilla," Bucks County deputy district attorney Christopher W. Rees said in a statement. "We recognize that the public is very interested in this story, and we are grateful for the community’s support. In deference to this overwhelming tragedy, we ask that everyone respect the families’ privacy as they continue to mourn their loved ones."

The Decrees are scheduled for a preliminary hearing April 25.

PHOTOS: Morrisville Family Murder

Naa'Irah Smith had only lived in the apartment for just one month and was engaged to be married, according to her father, Ronald Smith. Earlier in February, he tried to visit his daughter but she would only speak with him through the door.

Then, Ronald Smith received text messages from his daughter saying that soon she would pass through the "pearly gates."

"My daughter was a very good person," he said. "I don't know how she fell into this or what happened. I still want answers, too."

Campbell's 17-year-old son, Joshua, who was initially feared to be in danger, was found safe with friends in New Jersey, police said.

"Frankly, we're still trying to sort this out," Weintraub said. "The people who committed these atrocious acts are now in custody and [will] be made to pay for their crimes."

The People

Police say the suspects, Shana and Dominique Decree, were related to the five people they're accused of killing. All eight family members lived in the same Morrisville, Pennsylvania, apartment.

Source: Bucks County District Attorney/Family members/NBC

Neither Shana Decree nor her daughter have prior criminal records and nothing suspicious was discovered during the family's last well-being check, which was performed on Feb. 5, according to the county. 

But Destiny Harris said she had a bad feeling even before hearing the devastating news. 

The Decrees "were going through something religiously, and they decided to drag the kids into it," she said. "They never should have had to deal with any family issues."

But Morrisville chief of police George McClay refuted a possible faith-based motive.

"That has not been indicated in any way," he said. 

Neighbor Nicole Owens told NBC10 that she became concerned Friday when no one answered her knock at the family's apartment. On Saturday, Owens alerted apartment maintenance staff that something might be wrong.

Two days later, a Bucks County representative attempted to do a well-being check. When no one answered, a building manager let himself inside. He found Shana and Dominique Decree "disoriented" in one of the bedrooms, according to the affidavit. They were both taken to a local hospital before their arrests, Weintraub said.

When she reported to jail, Dominique Decree had visible injuries to her neck, officials said. 

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub choked up while discussing the arrest of two women implicated in the killing of five family members — ranging in age from 9 to 42 years old.

At the hospital, each woman initially claimed that a man or men killed their family members and attacked them, police said. 

Shana Decree later told investigators that the entire family "wanted to die." She claimed even the children were suicidal.

At least one of the 9-year-old twins attended Morrisville Middle School, which released a statement Tuesday morning offering counseling and support services for students and staff. 

"This is a time of great sorrow for the entire school community," the statement read. "This is a difficult time for everyone, but I know our students and staff will be able to lean on each other as they remember their classmate."

Online court records don't list an attorney who could comment for either woman.

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