Police worked Wednesday to try and unravel the mystery of who killed a woman, her partner and her two young children, whose bodies were found in a riverfront apartment house in upstate New York the day after Christmas.
"After being in this business for 43 years, I can't describe the savagery of a person who would do this," Troy Police Chief John Tedesco said.
Authorities released the names of the victims Thursday: 36-year-old Shanta Myers; her children, 11-year-old Jeremiah and 5-year-old Shanise; and 22-year-old Brandi Mells. Police say the women were in a relationship.
Few other details have been released since a property manager found the bodies Tuesday after being asked to check on the welfare of the residents of the apartment, one of five in a house located in the city's Lansingburgh section along the Hudson River just north of Albany.
Police didn't know when the slayings occurred, but Tedesco said he hoped autopsies being conducted Wednesday would provide clues. State police were involved in the investigation along with New York parole officials, Tedesco said.
"This will be a full-court press, if you will, until we bring someone to justice," he said, adding that police were seeking any information the public may have about the crime.
Investigators remained at the scene Wednesday. Police cars blocked vehicles from approaching the home, which is set amid older, restored houses. Yellow crime tape was stretched across the street, running along the river's east bank. Few people ventured out on the snow-covered sidewalks in temperatures in the teens.
"This heinous atrocity is unimaginable, incomprehensible. I believe it affects the whole community," said the Rev. Jackie Robinson, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Troy, who did not know the family. "Kids are traumatized. A lot of adults are traumatized too, because this monster is still out there."
Victory Christian Church of Albany offered a $5,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest.
The Troy City School District, partnering with the Boys and Girls Club, planned to offer grief counseling Friday morning at Troy Middle School.
"Our hearts are broken and our thoughts and deepest condolences are with their family and loved ones during this terribly troubling time," School Superintendent John Carmello said in a statement. He said a crisis response team will be on hand next week when children return from holiday recess.
Robinson said Jeremiah, who was called JJ, loved basketball and was a regular at the Boys and Girls Club. "Everyone down there is crying," Robinson said. "He was well-mannered, respectful, happy all the time."
Robinson said "everyone in the neighborhood loved and respected" Shanta Myers, who he said worked as a bus monitor at one time.
Tracy Coleman, who said she's a cousin of the Myers family, posted a message on her Facebook page saying "Our family does not wish to speak at this time. Our hearts are shattered."
The block where the victims lived remained closed to traffic Thursday as the investigation continued, police said.