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A young North Carolina mother is accused of fatally shooting her daughter and niece in a New Year’s Day triple murder that has left family and authorities baffled.
Brittany McKinney, 29, allegedly shot her 10-year-old daughter and 2-year-old niece, as well as another man she supposedly lived with, mere hours into the new year. She faces three first-degree murder charges.
Police received a call from a concerned relative around 11 a.m. on Jan. 1, requesting a welfare check at McKinney’s home. Inside, they found the bodies of MKenzie Denise McKinney, 10, Serenity Taliem Rose, 2, and Jerry Griffin, 61.
“All three victims were located inside the residence and they were all suffering from gunshot wounds,” Ronald Glenn, a public information officer for Greensboro Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
McKinney, who allegedly fled the scene of the triple murder in Griffin’s 2011 GMC SUV, crashed the man’s vehicle into a utility pole and then slammed the SUV into another motorist on the 2200 block of Wendover Avenue in Greensboro, according to an incident report obtained by Oxygen.com. She was charged with a hit and run, and booked for the triple murder at the scene of the crash. No one was injured in the collision.
But details surrounding what triggered the fatal shooting are unknown. Police haven’t yet released a motive, but did confirm all three victims were known to McKinney. Investigators, who declined to comment further on the case, were also unable to specify what type of firearm was used in the triple homicide.
The McKinney family, too, is puzzled as to what led to the shootings.
“We don’t know what happened — we’re just in shock,” Denise McKinney Weeks, Brittany McKinney’s mother, told Oxygen.com. “I have no answers.”
Denise, 48, said her daughter worked as a data entry specialist in Greensboro. She described Brittany as a “loving person” and was adamant that she still loved her daughter, despite the allegations.
“We know that this is not her character, this is not her,” Denise added. “The love a parent has for a child is unconditional. We’re devastated with what happened. We’re not sure of the ‘why’ or the ‘how.’ The love I have for her has not changed.”
The McKinney family said Brittany was placed on suicide watch at a local detention center, however, Oxygen.com was unable to independently confirm this with Greensboro Jail.
While she’s grappling with the accusations her daughter is facing, Denise McKinney is also grieving the death of her 10-year-old grandchild, MKenzie.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “We’re taking one day at a time and try to cope and get through this together as a family. I have to put my trust in God and hope and pray for the best.”
Denise described Mkenzie as a “wonderful,” “intelligent,” and “incredible” kid who was “wise beyond her years.” She said her granddaughter was in fifth grade, loved music — and adored pop star singer Billie Eilish.
The family also described Brittany’s 2-year-old niece, Serenity, as a “funny” toddler with a voracious appetite.
Serenity "loved to laugh, she liked to eat — she ate like she was a grown man,” Brittany’s sister, Dymend McKinney, 18, told Oxygen.com.
“I’m going to miss her tremendously,” Dymend added.
The family is currently fundraising on GoFundMe and Facebook to cover funeral costs for the two girls.
The McKinneys said that Griffin, the third victim, was known and well-liked by the family, but didn’t specify his exact relationship to Brittany. They said that the 61-year-old had been living with McKinney before his death.
McKinney could face the death penalty if convicted. In North Carolina, first-degree murder carries a sentence of capital punishment or life in prison without parole. However, Guilford County prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether they will seek the death penalty against McKinney, Stephen Cole, chief assistant to District Attorney Avery Crum, told Oxygen.com.
Cole said that decision could take up to two months.
McKinney hasn’t yet entered a plea, according to online court records. She’s being held without bail. Her next court date is scheduled for Feb. 2 at 8:30 a.m. Additional court records show that the 29-year-old doesn’t appear to have a criminal history.
Wayne Baucino, McKinney's public defender, called the case a "tragedy."
"We are still in the very early stages of investigating this case and hope people will reserve judgment until the investigation is completed and all of the facts are known," Baucino told Oxygen.com.
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