A mother and her adult daughter were sentenced Monday to life in prison in the slayings of five close relatives, including three children, outside Philadelphia last year.
Shana Decree, 47, and Dominique Decree, 21, were sentenced in Bucks County Court after entering guilty but mentally ill pleas to five counts of first-degree murder.
President Judge Wallace Bateman told the two that they had caused “unimaginable” harm, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“This is horrible and tragic, because I do believe the two of you have expressed remorse,” Bateman said Monday as he sentenced the defendants. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t bring them back. You can’t say, ‘Sorry’ and expect people to move on with their lives.”
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Both women offered tearful apologies to the court and other relatives in the courtroom.
“The hardest thing for me to do is decide who to say I’m sorry to first,” Shana Decree said. “To my family, I am sorry for taking away these beautiful souls in such a horrible manner.”
Dominique Decree sobbed as she said her actions will haunt her for the rest of her life.
“I’m so sorry for everything that happened, and I truly don’t understand why it happened,” she said.
A children and youth services case worker who went to the Morrisville apartment in February 2019 found the bodies of Shana Decree’s 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. Campbell had been strangled and the others had been suffocated, the coroner’s office said.
Police said the defendants were found “disoriented” inside the apartment, where furniture had been turned over, drywall was cracked and glass lay around. Authorities said they later gave conflicting stories of what had occurred but said everyone in the unit “wanted to die.”
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Rees said Monday that the killings took place over the course of three days. Court-appointed psychologists and psychiatrists concluded that both defendants had severe mental illness, including schizoid personality disorder, major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Both had sought mental health treatment, and Dominique's attorney John Fioravanti Jr. said his client started from age 5.
Shana Decree's attorney, Christa Dunleavy, said her client was isolated and delusional at the time of the killings, believing "the world was ending and there were demons in her house, and she had to obey them.”
“Her family tried to help her,” Dunleavy said, “But the delusions were too strong.”
Attorneys for both defendants said their clients had expressed horror and remorse following the killings.
District Attorney Matt Weintraub said in a statement that if not for their “severe mental illness," both defendants would face the death penalty, but instead they will “spend the rest of their lives in prison cells separated from the rest of us."
“By murdering Erica, Imani, Damon, Naa’irah, and Jamilla, they’ve decimated entire generations of their own family," Weintraub said. “It tests my faith in humanity and in God. But I have to believe in both. The alternative is so much worse.”