‘I Killed Them With My Bare Hands’

T.E. McMorrow
Tenia Campbell now faces possible life in prison without the possibility of parole

Independent/T.E. McMorrow


“I killed them with my bare hands,” the Medford woman accused of murdering her twin toddler daughters in Montauk told her mother moments after the girls died, according to court documents on file in East Hampton. Tenia R. Campbell, 24, is being held in county jail in Riverside, not eligible for bail, charged with two counts of murder in the second degree.

Her mother told police her daughter had been “very irrational and nasty” the past week, and has a history of mental disorders, including being bipolar. At about 2 PM, Thursday, June 27, Tenia called her mother, hysterically crying. “She kept saying she was sorry, but she didn’t want to live anymore,” the mother told police. “She said she was going to kill herself and her babies.”

Tenia Campbell was the mother of two-year-old twins, Jasmine and Jaida Campbell. She also is the mother of a five-year-old boy, who was not mentioned in the police report, and appears to have not been with his mother and his sisters at the time of the girls’ death.

After receiving the call from an hysterical Tenia Campbell, the mother dialed 911 from a second phone, while trying to calm her daughter down. She knew she was driving east, because Tenia Campbell said several times that she was driving toward the beach. “I asked her about her twin baby girls, and she said, ‘They are already dead. I killed them with my bare hands.’”

The mother told the 911 dispatcher that her daughter was driving a 2001 Chrysler Town and Country. Police put out a “be on the lookout” call, and began what Suffolk County police termed a “massive” search for Campbell and her twins, with County police working with East Hampton Town and Southampton Town police, plus New York State police and County park rangers.

Tenia Campbell and her mother continued exchanging calls, with Tenia telling her mother that “she was going to find the ocean and walk into it and drown so she could be with her babies in heaven.”

At 4:05 PM, East Hampton Town police located her car near the entrance to the county park at Third House in Montauk. Unsuccessful attempts were made to resuscitate the children. They were declared dead on arrival at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, while Tenia Campbell was placed under arrest.

She was held overnight, and brought to East Hampton Town Justice Court to be arraigned. At least a dozen news cameramen were around her when she was led into court by two officers. She kept her hands over her face the entire time she was walking, sobbing as she did so.

The arraignment was brief, a perfunctory procedure in which the court-appointed attorney representing her, Brian DeSesa, entered a denial to the pair of felony charges. She is not eligible for bail at the local level, due to the seriousness of the charges. If and when she is indicted, the real legal process for her will begin in county court.

According to prosecuting attorney Kerriann Kelly, who heads the district attorney’s homicide unit, Campbell will be under a suicide watch in county jail. Campbell faces 25 years to life In prison on each of the two murder charges.

A woman who said she was a friend of Tenia Campbell arrived at the courthouse after the arraignment had ended, and Campbell had been taken back to East Hampton Town police headquarters, from where she was taken to the county jail. She did not want to give her name, but she spoke to a reporter in a halting voice, with tears running down her face. “It’s out of the blue. It’s so shocking,” the woman said. Tenia was not a drug user, the friend said, and was a good mother. “I don’t know how this happened.” She said Tenia had been texting her, toward the end of her drive to Montauk, and her arrest. “Her last text message was, ‘I love you. Keep pushing.’”

A Facebook post by Campbell, on April 5, 2018, read “In they (sic) first year they have managed to stress me out to maximum capacity and still make me extremely happy. Such a blessing and a headache it is to have twins. I love you girls till the death of me.”

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