MILWAUKEE -- The community gathered Saturday, Feb. 22 to say goodbye to a Milwaukee mother and her two young daughters, less than a week after the three were found dead in a garage near 47th Street and Burleigh Street.
As Amarah "Jerica" Banks, 26, and her two daughters, Camaria Banks, 4, and Zaniya Ivery, 5, were laid to rest, family and friends credited the three for the energy and light they brought to the church on Saturday morning.
"The family is doing well, all things considered," said Antoinette Mensah. "They are prayerful. They trust in the Lord that this is an opportunity to celebrate the lives of the ones they lost."
Mensah, a longtime friend of Jerica, spoke on behalf of the family as they said goodbye.
"They are really appreciative of the support of the community, how the community has really stepped up and been in prayer," said Mensah.
Their focus Saturday was to find solace in memories. Their quest for justice was not at the forefront of their minds. Instead, they shared a message of positivity.
"So just understand there is hope, and God heals, and grieving is ok, but there is always joy in the morning, and today is about the joy," said Mensah. "It's a celebration of life."
Arzel Ivery, Sr. was charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the deaths of Banks and her daughters. Prosecutors said they were strangled to death following an argument regarding the death of their 21-month-old son, Arzel Ivery Jr., who died on Jan. 24 in the emergency room. The child suffered from asthma since birth and was sick with a cold/bronchitis. Prosecutors noted in a criminal complaint Arzel Ivery Sr. took the boy to the hospital on the afternoon of Jan. 24 -- hours after the boy was rejected from daycare because he was "too sick." Ivery Sr. told investigators Banks blamed him for the child's death, according to the complaint.
Banks and the children were reported to have been last seen by family/friends on Feb. 7/8. An Amber Alert was issued Feb. 15. Their bodies were found the next day.
Meanwhile, police in Memphis, Tennessee received a call from Ivery’s father on Feb. 15. He stated that Ivery “confessed to (Ivery’s father) that (Ivery) killed the mother of his children and his children in Milwaukee.” He was arrested a short time later.
Milwaukee police sent a detective to Memphis later that day to interview Ivery. Prosecutors said Ivery said “things had been tense between himself and Ms. Banks since the death of their 21-month-old son. He stated that Ms. Banks had not wanted him around anymore because he reminded her of their son.”
The funeral for the son was on Feb. 7 — and afterward, Ivery indicated he went to work. When he went to Banks’ apartment around 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 8, the complaint said Banks “was angry that (Ivery) had gone to work and yelled at him that he did not care about the death of their son.” Ivery claimed to police he and Banks had an argument and “he then grabbed Ms. Banks and pushed her head into the wall two times.” Ivery then indicated he “strangled Ms. Banks with both hands.”
The complaint said Ivery then stated, “he did not want the children…to live in a world where they did not have their mother.” He indicated he then strangled both the children. The complaint said Ivery then tried to hide the bodies of all three by burning them in the garage.
If convicted, Ivery faces up to life in prison.
A GoFundMe account was established for Banks and her daughters. CLICK HERE if you would like to consider a donation.
Help for victims of domestic violence
For those who need help in dealing with a domestic violence situation, it is available 24/7 at Sojourner Family Peace Center. You can call their hotline, 414-933-2722, visit their website, or even go to their location for assistance.