The 22-year-old mother accused of killing her three children in Phoenix, USA, sang to her children as she smothered them to death, according to court records.
Rachel Henry was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder Monday after she admitted to killing her three children under the age of 4, police said.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner identified the children as 3-year-old Zane Ezri Henry, 1-year-old Mireya Henry and 6-month-old Catalaya Kyeana Rios.
Police initially said the daughters were 2 years old and 7 months old, but the medical examiners office said the girls were age 1 and six months. It’s not clear if they were all Henry’s biological children.
Court records recounted how Henry allegedly smothered the three children one by one before lining up their bodies. However, the records don’t provide a possible motive for the brutal killing.
One family member told police they last saw the children alive at the Phoenix home Monday, according to the police report. Henry, who police said lived with the children’s 30-year-old father and a 49-year-old woman identified as an “aunt”, told them she would put the children down for a nap while they were gone.
Smothering the kids one by one
Henry allegedly told police she smothered her 1-year-old daughter first. She wrestled with the child before placing her hand over the child’s mouth while she continued to kick in protest. Henry’s 3-year-old son yelled at his mother to stop and tried to punch her in the face. Henry continued to smother the baby until she stopped breathing, according to the report. She left the body in the back bedroom.
“Rachel knew she killed the 1-year-old female when she stopped kicking,” a Phoenix police investigator wrote.
Henry then chased her 3-year-old son but told police she was stopped when her aunt and the father of the children returned home.
One of the family members played with one of the two children for a bit before Henry took the older boy into a back bedroom to change his underpants. She placed her son on the floor, straddled him with her legs and proceeded to smother him using her weight and by covering his mouth and nose with her hands until he died.
“Rachel described singing to the 3-year-old as he scratched her chest and pinched her,” the report detailed.
The probable cause statement says Henry next fed the 6-month-old female a bottle in her bedroom until she fell asleep. She sang her a song while again smothering the child with her hand as the child’s father and the unidentified woman were in the next room.
Henry placed the bodies of the three children on the living room floor as though they were taking a nap, the report says. She didn’t tell the father or her aunt what happened.
A female called 911 to report the three children were found dead at around 7:20 p.m., according to the probable cause statement. It’s not clear whether that was Henry or the other female in the home.
Both Henry and the father of the children were transported to the Phoenix police station to be interviewed. At some point, police said Henry admitted to killing the children.
Family members told police Henry, who has a history of methamphetamine addiction, had been “acting strange” the past several days.
Court documents indicate she was not under the influence of drugs.
At the home where police say Henry killed her three children, balloons, stuffed animals and pictures lined the yard Wednesday as teary-eyed motorists stopped to pay their respects.
Those who got out of their cars to add to the memorial did not know the family, but they said they were horrified by the details of the deaths.
Cuca Aguilar brought three balloons and three stuffed animals and laid them on the ground next to the other pictures, candles and flowers.
Aguilar said she has three children the same ages as the ones who died. She said that hearing the details Tuesday “hurt”.
“I hugged my babies so tight and tried not to cry,” Aguilar said.
Henry made her initial appearance in court Tuesday evening. She was clad in the baggy orange jail uniform provided by the Maricopa County jail, with her hair in a loose knot. Her face remained emotionless as the judge read her charges of three counts of first-degree homicide.
A representative from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office argued that Henry should be held on a $3 million cash-only bail given the nature of the charges, the fact that she’s unemployed and concerns that she might flee the area if released. Henry recently moved to Arizona from Oklahoma in 2019.
He also noted Henry apparently admitted to having a history of addiction to methamphetamine and that her children were previously removed from her care. This likely occurred in Oklahoma as the Arizona Department of Child Safety told The Arizona Republic it had no previous contacts with Henry.
The judge ultimately gave a secured bond of $3 million, meaning she could bail out of prison by providing a collateral of 10%.
Henry softly mumbles to judge
When asked if she wanted to make a statement in her defense, she only asked a question: “I’m not getting released?”
She sighed deeply and quietly asked for access to a bail bondsman. The judge told her a phone and the necessary numbers would be available to her in jail.
She quietly mumbled another statement, prompting the judge to ask her to repeat whatever she said.
“I don’t know how I’m going to be able to get any money,” she said. “I don’t have a job or anything.”
The judge told her that if she does provide the necessary bond, she won’t be allowed to possess any weapons or drugs and will be required to attend all future court proceedings.
Her next court date is scheduled for Jan. 28.