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Murder charges filed against Chicago mother accused of killing sons before jumping from high-rise

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CHICAGO — A woman accused of killing her two young children and stabbing her grandfather before jumping out of a South Shore high-rise was charged Saturday, Jan. 4 with two counts of first-degree murder, and one count of attempted first-degree murder -- and denied bail. WGN-TV reported Sunday Aleah Newell, 20, remained in critical condition at the hospital after she jumped from an 11th-story window.

According to WGN, police were called to the Water's Edge Apartments in the 7200 block of South Shore just before 2 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 2. Upon arrival, officers discovered Newell and her 2-year-old son, Johntavious, on the ground outside the building.

Inside the apartment was her 70-year-old grandfather, Cordell Walker, who was stabbed 10 times. Her 7-month-old son was found in the bathtub. Authorities said Newell stabbed the baby 19 times in the head and left him to die in the tub, with cuts on his face and blisters from scalding hot water.

Newell did not appear at Saturday's bail hearing -- still hospitalized at University of Chicago Medical Center, a Chicago police officer testified at the hearing. Her grandfather was also hospitalized in critical condition but was expected to live, prosecutors said.

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On Friday, Zera Newell came to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office to view the bodies of 2-year-old Johntavius and 7-month-old Ameer.

"I don't know how they're going to look," Zera Newell told WGN-TV. "But I'm going to be brave because I'm never going to see them again. I can't hear them laugh, cry... play with their cousins no more."

Zera Newell said her daughter left home before the murders.

“She left home. I didn't know where she was at,” Zera Newell said. “She called and said she was in the shelter."

Newell said her daughter told her she had to get her life together.

“I told her, ‘I’ll take care of the kids,'” Zera Newell said.

Women at the Shield of Hope Shelter in Humboldt Park said Aleah Newell was there on Dec. 30 seeking help. She reportedly left two days later.

A woman at the shelter said, "She was clearly in need of help."

"She was like, fed up," Adrianne Thomas told WGN-TV. "She didn't know what to do.

Thomas said Aleah Newell was in the shelter's lunchroom saying, "I can't do it. I can't take care of them."

After seeing the news, Thomas said she was devastated.

"It was wrong for them not to help her," Thomas said. "She told us that she asked them during intake, [and said], 'Well, I asked them if they could help me, and they said they couldn't help me. I had to do it on my own.'"

Zera Newell said her daughter had been living with her, but wanted to start her own life. She said she wishes something more could have been done.

“They should have helped her -- if they knew she wasn't fit, they should have called me,” she said. “They could have called a member of the family to get the kids. So to me, they're responsible for it too.”

Shield of Hope issued the following statement Friday evening.

"Shield of Hope, an emergency homeless assessment and rapid-response center, houses up to 152 people every night. Despite reports in recent days, no family has been, nor will be, turned away. Our doors are open to all who seek respite."

"For the safety of our clients, we cannot release specifics on requests for services of individual clients. However, we can confirm that the family in question received shelter on 12/30 and 12/31, and left on the morning of 1/1. We continue to pray for the family and those impacted by this tragedy."

The young boys were Chicago's first homicides of 2020.

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