A Texas mother is accused of drowning her two young children and then burying them underneath a neighbor’s home in Houston, police say.
Sheborah Thomas has been charged with capital murder in the deaths of her son, Oralyn, 7, and her daughter, Kahana, 5, police told the Houston Chronicle.
Police spokesman Kese Smith told the Associated Press, “all indications are she is the one who acted alone.” Smith said investigators have not yet determined a motive.
Thomas told detectives she drowned her son and daughter in a bathtub Friday, wrapped them in sheets and put their bodies in a trash can outside her home, the Associated Press reports. She then tried to bury the bodies, but was not able to make a hole deep enough, so she put them under a neighbor’s house, police said.
She told an acquaintance she needed to move out of the house on Sunday, and asked for help, police said. While they were packing, she admitted to killing the children, according to the Chronicle.
The 30-year-old mother was arrested Sunday after police found the bodies of her children in the 3000 block of Tierwester Street in the city’s Third Ward, the Chronicle reports. She was expected to appear in court for the first time Monday and is being held without bail.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Thomas’ Friend Thought She Was Joking After She Told Him She Killed Her Kids, Police Say
Police said one of Thomas’ friends found her throwing trash into a field near her house on Sunday, the Associated Press reports.
The friend told police Thomas told him she needed help moving out of the house right away, according to the AP. When he asked her about the children, Thomas “calmly” told him she had killed them, police said.
“She was so matter-of-fact about it, he didn’t think she was serious. He thought she was joking,” Houston Police spokesman Kese Smith told the AP. “He continued to help her pack.”
The unnamed friend, who is not considered to be a suspect, then asked her again, and got the same answer, which concerned him. He then contacted police. Officers responded to the house about 11 a.m. Sunday.
The 7-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl had last been seen at daycare on Friday, where they performed in a talent show, WFAA-TV reports.
“They had a great time Friday,” the daycare’s director, Sophia Faultry, told the news station. “They’re with us on a daily basis. We pick them up in the mornings, and we drop them off in the evening.”
She saying, “We’ll see you on Monday,” as they left the daycare.
Neighbors and the owner of the home where Thomas lived told the Houston Chronicle she had only moved in a few months ago.
“I remember when they first moved in — the kids were happy and everything,” said Geovanna Brewer, a neighbor, told the newspaper. “It’s like a shocker to me.”
Another neighbor, Dee Davis, told the Chronicle, “I never would have thought she would do that. She didn’t seem like the type. She was always with a smile and friendly. How in the hell can she do something like this? You bring life into the world; it’s not up to you to take it out. I can’t get over this.”
Neighbor Shirley Baines told KHOU-TV she never saw any problems.
“She made sure she kept the kids clean,” Baines told the news station. “She takes care of them. She goes to the store…to me she was like, a real nice person. They are good kids. … I mean, why would someone do their kids like that? I mean why? They are innocent!”
2. She Has a Minor Criminal Record & No History of Mental Illness
Thomas has a minor criminal record, according to court documents obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
She pleaded guilty in 2011 to failing to identify herself to a peace officer, a misdemeanor, and served three days in jail. She pleaded guilty in 2010 to two charges of misdemeanor theft and received probation for another theft conviction in 2009.
Police told the Associated Press they do not know of any history of mental illness, and said they had responded to the home in the past, but for “nothing major.”
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services told the AP child welfare officials had visited the family, but a spokesperson could not disclose the nature of those visits.
Tejal Patel said a “top-to-bottom” review of the case will be conducted.
“Obviously we want to know how this happened, why this happened,” Patel told the Chronicle. “We just feel horrible. This is just a tragic case.”
3. Her Husband, the Father of the Children, Is in State Prison
Thomas’ husband, Danny Ray Thomas, who is the father of the slain children, is in state prison in Bryan, Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. He was sentenced to three years in prison in October 2015 for possession of PCP.
They were married in July 2008 and filed for divorce in 2012, but it was not finalized, the newspaper reports.
Police said Sheborah Thomas has a 12-year-old son with a different man, but the boy was not at the home and is safe.
4. Oralyn & Kahana’s Aunt Says They Were Just ‘Innocent, Growing Kids’
Oralyn, who went by “Ray Ray” and Kahana were just “innocent, growing kids,” their aunt, Kita Thomas-Smith told the Houston Chronicle.
“This is the type of stuff that you see on TV,” she told the newspaper. “To actually feel it yourself is devastating. It’s hurtful. It’s ridiculous.”
Thomas-Smith said she never saw any signs of mental illness, and wishes her sister-in-law had sought help from family or authorities.
“There’s no reason you’d do this to your kids,” she told the newspaper.
Thomas-Smith started a GoFundMe account to help with funeral services, saying the family needs help raising money for the “going home services” for her niece and nephew, “who were murdered by the hands of their own Mother.”
“Please find it in your hearts to help us lay their bodies to rest and help everyone find peace in this situation,” she wrote.
5. The Case Has Brought Back Memories of Andrea Yates, Who Drowned Her 5 Children in Houston 15 Years Ago
The drownings have brought back memories of another Houston mother, Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in the Texas city 15 years ago, the Houston Chronicle says.
The Yates case attracted national attention after she drowned her kids in a bathtub.
She was found guilty of murder in 2002, but the conviction was overturned and she was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Yates is receiving treatment at a state mental hospital in Kerrville, Texas, the newspaper reports.