A Tennessee mother has been charged with fatally stabbing four of her children, whose ages range from 6 months to 4 years old, inside her Memphis-area apartment.
Shanynthia Gardner, 29, was arrested and charged with four counts of murder and child abuse and neglect for the shocking crime after Shelby County deputies found the four small children slashed to death.
A fifth child, Gardner’s 7-year-old son from a different father, was able to escape the apartment and was spared from the bloodshed, Shelby County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Earle Farrell told the Daily News.
“He was able to get out of the house unharmed,” Farrell said, and added that the family of Gardner’s husband, the boy’s stepfather, are caring for him after the tragedy.
Deputies were called around 12:30 p.m. Friday to the Greens of Irene apartment complex in southeast Shelby County after someone other than Gardner or her husband called 911.
“When I first got the call to dispatch, I thought someone had been wounded, and then it kept getting worse and worse and worse,” Farrell said, but did not know who the caller was.
First responders arrived to the two-bedroom apartment and found Gardner inside, along with the bodies of the four children, which included a 6-month-old, 2-year-old, 3-year-old and 4-year-old.
Gardner’s husband was not at the scene of the crime and has not been charged.
Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham gave a heart-wrenching statement to reporters on Saturday.
“This is an egregious act of evil that has shocked us to our core,” he said.
Investigators are trying to determine what drove Gardner to kill her children.
“One of the most difficult questions in any investigation is always, ‘Why did this happen?’” the sheriff said.
The state Department of Children’s Service has no record of interaction with the slain children, spokesman Rob Johnson said.
“We’ve done an exhaustive search and we are not aware of any contact with this family,” he said.
The apartment complex where Gardner lives is a gated community with a golf course running through it. Residents weren’t allowed to return to their homes while the investigation took place for two hours on Friday.
Neighbor Patricia Johnson, who is a mother, burst into tears when she heard about the killings, she said.
“I can’t fathom that,” she said. “What would babies do to make you do that?”
A Go Fund Me campaign was set up by a friend of the children’s father to raise money for funeral expenses. So far, the fund-raising effort had raised over $2,000 of the $50,000 goal.
“Tragically four beautiful children lost their lives for unknown reasons. They leave behind a loving father that takes every breath with his children in mind,” the page reads.