2 toddlers killed in murder-attempted suicide at South-Shore high-rise identified; mother, grandfather in critical condition

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Authorities have identified the two young children who were killed in an apparent murder-attempted suicide at a South Shore high-rise early Thursday morning

The victims were identified as 2-year-old Johntavis Newell and 7-month-old Ameer Newell. Police said both were killed by their mother, who has been identified as 20-year-old Aleah Newell. The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office determined both causes of death to be homicide.

Zera Newell, Aleah Newell's mother, identified the children's remains Friday.

"I don't know why it happened," Zera Newell said, "why she killed my grandkids."

Chicago police responded to the 7200-block of South Shore Drive at about 1:48 a.m. and found a 20-year-old woman and a young child on the ground.

Police say Newell stabbed Johnatvis and left him in the bathtub, where he died. Then she allegedly dropped Ameer from an 11th story window. She then stabbed her 70-year-old grandfather in the apartment before jumping out the window herself in an attempt to kill herself, police said.

Something broke her fall and she survived. She and her grandfather were taken to University of Chicago Hospital in critical condition.

The children were taken to Comer Children's Hospital where they were pronounced dead.

Acquaintance Adrianna Thomas said Newell spent a couple days at the Shield of Hope shelter in Humboldt Park, where she told several people she needed help and could not raise her kids on her own.

"She came to all of us and said she couldn't take care of the kids," Thomas said.

Those who knew Newell said the Salvation Army, which runs the Shield of Hope facility, denied her.

"If y'all knew she was asking for help, why didn't you help this lady?" wondered Teranika Jones, acquaintance.

The Salvation Army initially issued a statement saying they could not confirm if Aleah Newell stayed at the shelter.

"Our prayers go out to the family impacted by this horrible tragedy. Due to client confidentiality, we can't disclose the names of clients," the statement said.

Newell's mother, however, confirmed her daughter called her from the shelter Tuesday night. Friday evening the Salvation Army issued an updated statement, in which they acknowledged Aleah Newell stayed at the Shield of Hope shelter from Monday until Wednesday morning.

An investigation by Area Central detectives is ongoing. Crisis responder Andrew Holmes has been with Zera Newell and has called on community support systems to aid her.
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