Shanynthia Gardner was seen chasing her terrified 7-year-old son out of the house on Friday holding a large butcher knife, neighbors said, only to return back inside.
Later, police would find four children dead inside the Memphis apartment, with Gardner allegedly stabbing them to death before trying to take her own life.
Chilling new details are emerging about the murders that have shocked the country, though there are still few clues as to what made the mother allegedly stab her very young children to death.
Police documents showed that a neighbor called to 911 to say 7-year-old Dallen Clayton was seen running from the house screaming that his sister had been stabbed. Inside, police found a horrific scene, WREG reported.
“In the living room, first responders discovered 6-month-old Yahzi Gardner sitting in her baby carrier and her sister, 3-year-old Sya Gardner, lying next to her dead.
“Both had severe lacerations to their throats.
“Four-year-old Tallen Gardner and 2-year-old Sahvi Gardner were found in a bedroom.
“Tallen was on the floor while his little sister was on the bed.”
Police said Shanynthia Gardner has superficial cuts to her neck and wrists, but that the cuts were not life-threatening.
The scene inside the apartment was gruesome and difficult for police to process, authorities noted.
“When I first got the call to dispatch, I thought someone had been wounded, and then it kept getting worse and worse and worse,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Earle Farrell told the New York Daily News.
The father of the children, Martin Gardner, said he spoke to Shanynthia on the phone at 12:50 p.m. and that she admitted to committing the murders.
Family members said Shanynthia Gardner had exhibited some bizarre behavior in recent months, but had no outward signs of mental illness. In March of last year, she was reported missing from a home in Memphis after her husband said Shanynthia left for a run and never returned.
Gardner’s husband said Shanynthia was having difficulties are her job and was feeling paranoid when she disappeared.
“She also has been feeling that someone is trying to harm her and her family,” he told WREG.
But despite the bizarre behavior, police said Shanynthia Gardner had no known history of abusing her children and had no interaction with the Department of Children’s Services.
Police have not yet announced a motive for the murders, and friends and family of Shanynthia Gardner are struggling to understand why she may have killed her children in such a brutal manner. Sonya Clayton, the grandmother of the 7-year-old boy who survived the massacre, said she forgives the mother and doesn’t believe she was in her right mind.
“I forgive her,” Clayton told 11 Alive at a vigil held Saturday night that attracted about 30 people. “I know this was not her. I know this was the work of the devil. I love Shanynthia wholeheartedly still.”
There may not be answers anytime soon, noted Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham.
“Every investigation we always try to answer that very difficult question why,” he told WMC Action News 5. “And in some instances, you’re just not going to be able to determine exactly why.”
Family and friends are now pulling together the support the grieving father and the surviving child. One friend set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the funeral expenses, and the fundraiser has already pulled in close to $5,000 toward the $50,000 goal.
Shanynthia Gardner faces four counts of first-degree murder for the stabbing deaths of her young children. She is also charged with four counts of first-degree murder in association with aggravated child neglect, four counts of aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child neglect or endangerment. She is expected in court on July 5.
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