Mother Who Killed Twin Daughters in 2019 Due in Court; Plea Deal Possible - 27 East

Mother Who Killed Twin Daughters in 2019 Due in Court; Plea Deal Possible

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Tenia Campbell after being arrested in 2019 in the deaths of her twin 2-year-old daughters, has been in jail awaiting trial for more than 4 years. She is due to appear in a Riverhead courtroom on Monday with a possible plea deal on the table.  
PRESS FILE PHOTO

Tenia Campbell after being arrested in 2019 in the deaths of her twin 2-year-old daughters, has been in jail awaiting trial for more than 4 years. She is due to appear in a Riverhead courtroom on Monday with a possible plea deal on the table. PRESS FILE PHOTO

T.E. McMorrow on Sep 29, 2023

Tenia Campbell, who was 24 years old when she allegedly killed her twin toddlers during a drive to Montauk in 2019, then begged East Hampton Town Police officers to kill her, is due in court on Monday morning, October 2, with a plea deal possibly in the offing.

Campbell, now 28, and her attorney, John Halverson, entered a not guilty plea to the multiple charges she was facing, including double homicide, after her arrest following the June 27, 2019, incident. She has been incarcerated since and has been moved back and forth between the county jails in Yaphank and Riverside.

In October of last year, she was charged with obstruction of governmental administration, a misdemeanor, after an incident in the Riverside facility during which she was “refusing an officer’s orders, throwing a garbage bag with unknown liquid at a Correction Officer, interfering with the proper operation of the cell gate, and flooding the day area and officers walkway with water creating a hazard for the officers” according to Victoria Distefano, a spokesperson for the office of Sheriff Errol D. Toulon Jr.

The misdemeanor charge was eventually dropped.

Originally, Halverson had planned a possible defense of not guilty by reason of mental defect. A Manhattan-based forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Alexander Bardey, brought in by Halverson, presented a report to the court and the prosecution last year that found that Campbell suffered from mental illness at the time of her daughters’ deaths.

Campbell’s mother told police after her daughter was taken into custody, that Tenia had called her during the drive to Montauk from her home in Mastic Beach. The mother told police that her daughter suffered from bipolar disorder and had “been acting very irrational and angry” that week.

While the mother had her daughter on the phone, she used another phone to alert the police, who began a countywide search for Campbell and the twins, a search that tragically ended near the entrance to Third House State Park in Montauk.

When police arrived, they reported that Tenia Campbell was standing outside her vehicle. Inside, Jasmine and Jaida Campbell were dead. The cause of death, according to police, was asphyxiation.

Campbell, sobbing, begged the first officers to arrive at the tragic scene to shoot her dead. She had told her mother during the phone call that “I killed my babies, and now I have to be with them,” and that she was going to drown herself in the ocean.

Halverson’s planned defense ran into opposition from the prosecution, who presented a report from another Manhattan-based forensic psychiatrist, Jeremey Colley, who disagreed with Dr. Bardey’s findings.

Known commonly as an insanity defense, such an argument is a tough sell for a jury, particularly in cases of parricide, the killing of a family member. In such a case, the burden of proof shifts from the prosecution to the defense. The defense must prove that the defendant was suffering a mental defect at the time of the crime.

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