Two small children died in a Bronx family shelter on Saturday night after being stabbed several times each in the neck and torso, and their mother was in custody, the authorities said.
The New York Police Department identified the children as boys, ages 11 months and 3 years, but did not release their names. The police described their mother as a “person of interest” but did not release her name either.
Police officers were sent to the shelter in the Mount Hope neighborhood at 7:20 p.m. to investigate a report of a woman trying to burn items near the kitchen area, Louis De Ceglie, deputy chief of the New York Police Department, said during a news conference late Saturday.
Officers found the woman naked inside the third-floor unit on the 200 block of Echo Place, Chief De Ceglie said. She was “acting irrational,” and officers took her into custody without incident before taking her to a nearby hospital for evaluation, he said. Chief De Ceglie said the woman was 24; a later police release said she was 22.
Soon after, around 7:55 p.m., the police received another call reporting that two babies at the same location were not breathing, Chief De Ceglie said.
Officers returned to the apartment and found the two children with stab wounds, he said. They were taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital but died of their injuries, he said.
In recent years, New York City has annually recorded about a dozen homicides against children under age 10 that are classified as domestic, according to police statistics. Killings of multiple children have been rare. But last year, a Queens woman was charged with murdering her infant twins, and in September a mother was charged with drowning her three children in the Coney Island surf.
On Saturday night in the Bronx, neighbors peeked out of windows at the police as reporters assembled below the family’s apartment, which was on the third floor of an eight-story building.
Michelle Rivera, 23, said she came from Queens when she heard what had happened to children she had “watched grow up.” Describing herself as “street family,” she said had been close to the children’s father. Ms. Rivera was visibly upset as she described the mother’s behavior.
“She always had a problem with her significant other,” Ms. Rivera said. She said the mother exhibited a short temper around her children, for instance becoming angry when they would cry for a bottle.
“She never had patience,” Ms. Rivera said.“Everybody offered their help.”
Charlotte Obiri, 47, a neighbor, said she knew the woman in custody from around the neighborhood and frequently saw her with her children and their father on the street, in the store and at nearby Echo Park. Ms. Obiri was visibly in shock as she described seeing the two boys being brought down.
“They brought the baby out, and they was working on him — and then the little boy, they brought him out on a gurney, and he looked lifeless,” she said. “He was naked, and he looked lifeless. I still see the image in my head.”
Ms. Obiri and other neighbors struggled to process the gruesome scene and the fact that the children’s mother was in custody.
“I feel sick,” Ms. Obiri said. “I’ve been throwing up.”
Liset Cruz contributed reporting.