CHICAGO — The grandmother of the toddlers found dead Thursday morning in South Shore is dealing with an immense amount of tragedy.
Zera Newell’s daughter is now a murder suspect after her grandsons were killed and her father was stabbed.
Police were called to the Water's Edge Apartments in the 7200 block of South Shore just before 2 a.m. Thursday. Upon arrival, officers discovered 20-year-old Aleah 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 multiple times, and her 7-month-old son in the bathtub. Authorities said Newell left him to die in the tub, with cuts on his face and blisters from scalding hot water.
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," Newell said. "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."
Newell said her daughter left home before the murders.
“She left home. I didn't know where she was at,” Newell said. “She called and said she was in the shelter.
Newell said her daughter told her she had to her life together.
“I told her ‘I’ll take care of the kids,” Newell said.
Women at the Shield of Hope Shelter in Humboldt Park said Aleah Newell came 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 said. "She didn't know what to do.
Thomas said Newell was in the shelter's lunchroom saying, "I can't do it, I can't take care of them."
After seeing the news, she was devastated.
"It was wrong for them not to help her," she 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.
Newell wishes something more could have been done.
“They should have helped her, if they knew she wasn't fit they should have called me,” Newell 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.