EAST ST. LOUIS, Illinois. Officers responding to gunfire at an Illinois apartment complex walked into what a police chief described Friday as one of the “most horrific scenes” he’d ever witnessed: A 4-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother dead in a bedroom, killed by close-range shotgun blasts to the head.
Across the Mississippi River, their mother was arrested as she sat with a shotgun on a bench outside a St. Louis television station, having wrecked her car near the city’s Gateway Arch after driving into two pedestrians. The slain children’s 8-year-old brother had escaped the apartment unharmed.
Yokeia Smith, 25, was charged Friday with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of daughter Yokela Smith and son Levada Brown, whose father is in federal prison in Wisconsin for a 2006 bank robbery he says he carried out to help support the boy as a newborn.
Relatives have said Smith was bipolar and had perhaps been prescribed medication for depression or another mental illness. Kelly would not discuss Smith’s mental wherewithal Friday, saying only that “she’s aware of where she is and what happened.”
The investigations were prompted by allegations of child neglect, but there never had been reports involving physical abuse, spokesman Kendall Marlowe said.
Smith also never lost custody of her children, although police once briefly took them into protective custody, Marlowe said. The agency did not take the matter to court because some of Smith’s relatives took steps to help care for the children, Marlowe said.
Smith’s 8-year-old son was in protective custody Friday, authorities said.
Smith remained jailed in St. Louis. Prosecutors there charged her with armed criminal action and first-degree assault in connection with her run-in with the two pedestrians, who were taken to hospitals with injuries not considered life-threatening. Kelly said it was unclear how soon she might be returned to Illinois.