Quadruple Homicide in Upstate New York Unfolded Just Miles from Cold Case Killing of Another Family of 4
As investigators scour for clues in the killing of a mother, her two young children and her domestic partner in their upstate New York home, aspects of the quadruple homicide appear similar to another, unsolved mass family killing that occurred less than 15 miles away in 2014.
Neither a suspect nor a motive has been identified in the murders of Shanta Myers, 36, her 11-year-old son Jeremiah "JJ," and 5-year-old daughter Shanise Myers and Shanta's partner, 22-year-old Brandi Mells, who were found dead Tuesday in their basement apartment in Troy.
They were bound and their throats were cut, police sources told the Albany Times Union.
Officials believe the family appeared to have been targeted in a killing Police Chief James Tedesco called “the worst we’ve experienced.”
"Only a person of savagery would do something like this," he said. “Nobody that’s been involved in this case is going to forget this.”
It was a similar sentiment expressed by officers who worked to solve the murders of a family brutally killed in their Guilderland home three years ago. While authorities have not said the killings are in any way linked to the murders of the Myers family, some reports have noted similarities between the two crimes.
Jin Feng Chen, 39, his wife Hai Yan Li, 38, and their sons Anthony, 10, and Eddy, 7, were repeatedly stabbed and bludgeoned with something similar to a hammer during the early hours of Oct. 8, 2014.
“I'm still sick. I've never seen anything like it," Guilderland Police Chief Carol Lawlor said at the time.
The Chen family was also killed in what authorities believed to have been a targeted incident, but investigators have not been able to publicly identify a motive or suspect in the case.
Some believed the family was killed as a result of Chen’s alleged involvement in an illegal operation that moved undocumented Chinese restaurant workers around the Albany region. Others believed that Chen was involved in gambling that racked up a considerable debt, the Times Union reported.
Chen’s brother shot down claims that Jin Feng Chen was involved in high stakes card games, saying instead that he hosted small, low-stakes card games for friends.
"They said they all died for no reason," Daisy Lie, a reporter for the World Journal, told the Times Union at the time. "We all know there is a much bigger story here and we pressed the family on it, but they wouldn't say more."
The family had no history with the police department, Police Chief Lawlor said.
Ahead of the one year anniversary of the murders, Albany County District Attorney David Soares appealed for anyone with information on who was responsible for the killings to come forward.
“Someone has that answer,” Soares said in 2015. “Someone has that answer, and the problem is that someone hasn’t come forward.”
Obstacles abound in solving the case, Soares said, including a fear and language barrier among those in the Chinese community. Chen’s brother reportedly offered a $5,000 reward for information about the killings early on in the case.
Police in Troy have also appealed to the public to come forward with any information about the murders of the Myers and Mells, noting time is of the essence and that they will not stop until whoever is responsible is caught.
“We are certainly appealing to people in the community that would have any knowledge as to what may have transpired there to contact us as soon as possible,” Chief Tedesco said on Wednesday. “I know there is not a resource that we won’t tap in the city, or wherever we need to get it. This will be a full-court press, if you will, until we bring someone to justice.
"I don't think there's any doubt that a person who committed this crime is capable of anything," Tedesco said.
Little Shanise attended School 14, while her big brother went to 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 district superintendent John Carmello said in a statement Thursday.
Tracy Coleman, who on Facebook identified herself as Myers' cousin, wrote on Facebook that her family's "hearts are shattered."
"This is wrong so wrong!!!! Who would hurt kids omg," another woman who identified herself as a relative posted on social media.
Shanta Myers was remembered as a generous woman who would go above and beyond for those she loved.
"There was nothing she wouldn't do for the community ... She loved to cook and attend to her kids," a friend posted on Facebook.
Albany's Victory Christian Church is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the killings.
Capital Region Crime Stoppers is offering an additional reward of up to $1,500 cash. Tips can be submitted anonymously at capitalregioncrimestoppers.com.
The New York State Police Department's Forensics Investigation Unit and Major Crimes Unit are assisting City of Troy Police in its investigation into the killings of Myers and Mells, Trooper Mark Cepiel, a spokesman for New York State Police, told InsideEdition.com.
Cepiel noted the investigation into the murders of the Chen family is still active, saying: "There are no updates in the investigation and any leads that have been generated and followed have been internal as we continue to look at all possibilities and theories in those homicides. We have ruled nothing out in this case and have been hindered by the relatively low number of leads from the public in a case of this magnitude."