An Arizona mother accused of smothering her three children was formally charged with murder this week.
A grand jury indicted Rachel Henry, 22, on three counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said statement.
Henry was arrested on Jan. 20 after authorities received a report that three children had been found dead in a private residence, according to local outlet KFOR. Henry’s three children — 3-year-old Zane Henry, 1-year-old Mireya Henry, and 7-month-old Catalaya Rios — had all been smothered, with Henry later placing the children on the couch to make it look as if they were sleeping, according to an affidavit obtained by the outlet.
During an interview with police, Henry admitted to killing the children, and stated that she started with the 1-year-old, the affidavit states. She allegedly straddled the girl and placed her hand over her mouth, preventing her from breathing, even as the child’s 3-year-old brother yelled at and hit her in an attempt to get her to stop. Henry continued on until the child was dead, and then began chasing her 3-year-old, authorities said; her plan was interrupted when a relative came over to visit, but she later took the boy to a bedroom, where she smothered him as she had his sister, singing to him as she killed him, according to the affidavit.
“Rachel described singing to the three-year-old male as he [scratched] her chest and [pinched] her while she placed her hand over his nose/mouth,” the affidavit states, according to KFOR.
She then fed the youngest child a bottle and, when the infant was asleep, sang to her while she smothered her with her hand, authorities said.
Family members who spoke to police said that Henry had been behaving strangely recently and had a methamphetamine addiction, according to KFOR.
Henry is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 4, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said.
“This office is committed to seeking justice on behalf of the three young lives lost in this horrific tragedy,” Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said, according to the release. “I want to thank the first responders and prosecutors who responded on January 20, as well as those who have carried this case forward and will continue to do so.”
Prosecutors have not ruled out seeking the death penalty for Henry, KFOR reports.
Henry recently had moved from Prague, Oklahoma to Phoenix, Arizona in order to be closer to her kids while they lived with an aunt, according to a different KFOR report. However, during her time in Oklahoma, and when she presumably still lived with the children, police were called to her home multiple times, and she was ordered to refrain from having contact with the children’s father. On one occasion, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services removed the children from her care for a week, the outlet reports.
The children’s father, Pedro Rios, who was reportedly engaged to Henry, called the deaths of his kids “just tragic,” AZFamily.com reports.
“I'll never get to see my kids smile or laugh,” Rios said. “I won’t get to teach them to ride a bike or read a book.”
Rios told the outlet that he came home from work that day and played with his two oldest children before Henry said that she was going to have them take a nap. He said that he then dozed off, and when he woke up, he noticed his daughter seemingly asleep on the couch, only to find that she wasn't moving. He ran to get his aunt, and didn’t notice until later that his other two children also weren't moving.
“It hurts me that I didn't even realize my other two kids lay next to me,” he told the station. “I just seen my daughter, my smallest daughter.”
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