Things That Matter

A Chicago Mom Killed Her Two Children And Was Charged With The City’s First Homicides of 2020

In a tragic incident on January 2, 2020, two young Chicago children were killed at the hands of their young mother. During the days that followed, 20-year-old Aleah Newell was charged with two counts of first-degree murder surrounding the deaths of her two sons: 7-month-old Ameer and 2-year-old Johntavis. She also faces a charge of attempted first-degree murder, after assaulting her 70-year-old grandfather, Cordell Walker, in the bathroom of his high-rise apartment.

When the police arrived on the scene, they found Newell’s grandfather on the floor, “moaning in a pool of his own blood.” Newell had stabbed him more than ten times after putting him in a chokehold and hitting him in the head with a towel bar. He is expected to survive the attack.

Authorities say that the nightmarish evening continued with Newell stabbing 7-month-old Ameer 19 times in the head, then placing him face down in a scalding hot bath that covered his body in blisters. According to charging documents from the Cook County State Attorney’s Office, Newell then threw 2-year-old Johntavis out of the 11-story window, jumping out after him mere seconds later. Newell allegedly struck window washer scaffolding on the third floor before hitting the concrete below. Police have security video evidence that shows both bodies falling separately, and Newell can be seen sitting up and stirring after the fall.

While Newell suffered only a broken ankle and wrist, Johntavis suffered multiple fractures to the skull and blunt force trauma from the impact of the fall.

A security woman encountered Johntavis and Newell on the ground outside the building and called 911. The court document states that at roughly the same time, a tenant on the 10th floor called security to report that water was leaking through the ceiling—Newell had left the bathtub faucet running.

Although Newell has spent the past several days undergoing and recovering from surgery at University of Chicago Medical Center, she was ordered Saturday to be held without bond on her multiple charges of murder and attempted murder, and she has still not entered pleas for the charges.

According to NBC News, prosecutors claimed that Newell was diagnosed with a mood disorder in the summer of 2019, after an attempted suicide. But Zera Newell said, “I thought she was over that,” adding that “maybe behind closed doors it was another thing.”

 At the end of December, she had been staying at Shield of Hope, a Chicago homeless shelter for families, for two days. The court document shows that prosecutors cited Newell asking her mother, Zera Newell, to pick up the children on New Year’s Eve so that Newell could “get her life together.” But by the time her mother showed up to Shield of Hope on Wednesday, Newell was gone.

Acquaintance Adrianna Thomas also commented on Newell’s stay at the Shield of Hope, saying that Newell had told several employees that she needed support and was struggling to raise her kids on her own. People close to Newell claim that the Salvation Army—which oversees the Shield of Hope shelter—denied her pleas.

“She came to all of us and said she couldn’t take care of the kids,” Thomas said. “It was wrong for them not to help her. She told us that she asked them during intake, [and said], ‘Well I asked them if they could help me, and they said they couldn’t help me. I had to do it on my own.'”

Another acquaintance, Teranika Jones said, “If y’all knew she was asking for help, why didn’t you help this lady?”

Zera Newell also holds the shelter somewhat accountable. “They should have helped her, if they knew she wasn’t fit they should have called me,” she said. “They could have called a member of the family to get the kids. So to me, they’re responsible for it too.”

The Salvation Army initially issued a statement that said that they could not confirm whether Newell had stayed at the shelter or not, though they later did affirm her presence for two nights in December.

“Our prayers go out to the family impacted by this horrible tragedy. Due to client confidentiality, we can’t disclose the names of clients,” the original statement from the Salvation Army said.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a friend of the family mentioned that the deaths of Ameer and Johntavis weren’t the only tragedy to touch the family in recent years. He said that in the summer of 2018, three members of the family—including Newell’s brother and a 12-year-old girl—were shot and wounded outside a home in the South Side Gresham neighborhood. But the deaths of these two boys are Chicago’s first homicides of 2020.

“My daughter, I don’t know what was going on, but I know deep inside she loved her kids,” Zera Newell said. “And my grandsons, I’m going to never forget them. I want to always remember the good times I had with them for two years and seven months.”

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