A Pennsylvania mother and daughter have pled guilty to the “massacre” of five of their family members, officials have said.
Shana Selena Decree, 47, and her daughter Dominique Kiaran Decree, 21, pled guilty but mentally ill to five counts of first-degree murder and one count of criminal conspiracy, Buck's County District Attorney's office said.
The women killed five family members: Shana Decree’s children, Naa’Irah Smith, 25, and Damon Decree Jr, 13, her sister, Jamilla Campbell, 42, and Campbells 9-year-old twin daughters, Imani and Erika Allen, prosecutors said.
They have been sentenced to five consecutive life sentences, avoiding the death penalty as part of the negotiated plea.
"Were it not for their severe mental illness, both would face the death penalty,” District Attorney Matt Weintraub said in a statement following the sentencing.
“As it stands, they both will spend the rest of their lives in prison cells separated from the rest of us, as punishment.”
President Judge Wallace H Bateman Jr described the case as "horrific and sad at the same time."
The murders occurred between 23 February and 25 February in 2019, according to the attorney’s office. The bodies were discovered in the afternoon of 15 February.
Autopsies determined that four victims: Erika Allen, Imani Allen, Damon Decree, and Naa’Irah Smith, were killed by homicidal asphyxia. Jamilla Campbell was killed by homicidal ligature strangulation, officials said.
According to the release, separate mental health professionals said they believed that both were guilty but mentally ill at the time of the murders.
John Fioravanti Jr, Dominque's lawyer, told CNN that this was “one of the hardest cases” he had ever worked and described Dominique Decree’s remorse.
"She was very remorseful and pleasant to deal with," Mr Fioravanti Jr said. "It's very troubling for me. One of the hardest cases I've ever had and I've been doing this a long time."
Shana Decree spoke emotionally about the crimes on Monday morning, USA Today reported.
"To my family, I am sorry for taking away such beautiful souls in such a horrible manner," she reportedly said.
During the investigation, Shana Decree is said to have told investigators that all five victims wanted to die, according to the district attorney's office.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher W Rees said he had "never dealt with a case as heartbreaking as this” in a statement.
“I have never seen a case with this level of sadness, with this level of loss,” he said.