This story was reported by Vera Chinese, Zachary R. Dowdy and Ellen Yan and was written by Yan.
A Medford woman killed her twin 2-year-old girls Thursday, a tragic ending to a desperate Medford-to-Montauk search after a 911 caller reported her daughter was threatening to end her life and her children's, Suffolk police said.
East Hampton Town police found Tenia Campbell, 24, at the entrance of the Montauk County Park Third House Nature Center and tried to resuscitate her two girls, Jasmine and Jaida Campbell, authorities said. But the toddlers were in cardiac arrest inside Campbell's vehicle and were pronounced dead at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, authorities said.
Campbell was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder. She was held at East Hampton Town Police Headquarters for arraignment Friday at East Hampton Town Justice Court.
Police said the massive search started when a woman called 911 at about 2:30 p.m. and told the operator that her daughter was suicidal and intended to kill the twins. Authorities did not know where Campbell was and officers from various agencies joined Suffolk police in searching across the county. New York State police, Suffolk County Park Rangers, Southampton Town Police and the East Hampton Town Police joined in the search, officials said.
At 4:05 p.m., East Hampton police located what appeared to be a minivan at the Montauk park. Investigators could be seen next to the vehicle, along with medical equipment.
Suffolk homicide detectives are investigating but did not provide other details, including motive. The medical examiner's office will the determine the children's cause of death.
Outside a two-family house on Long Island Avenue in Medford, a neighbor said Campbell lived in one of the units with her daughters and a 4-year-old son.
Akira Anderson, who said she rented the other unit and described herself as a childhood friend, said she last saw the woman Wednesday and everything seemed fine. So when Suffolk police came to tell her about the twins' deaths Thursday, Anderson said she was stunned.
"I didn't believe it," Anderson said was her first thought. "Wrong person. Not her."
The woman worked as a home health aide, Anderson said. She said her friend was reserved and kept her personal life private.
"She never seemed like she was going through things," the friend said. "If she did, she handled it."
The father of Campbell's son took custody of the boy, Anderson said.
Campbell was an "amazing mother" who was always playing with the children and teaching them at the same time, she said.
Anderson described Jasmine and Jaida as smart, happy 2-year-olds who were "just amazing little girls, running around, smiling. She's a great mother. Her kids were great. They were my kids' friends."
At the house next door, a shaken Aleshia Pike, mother of a 2-year-old girl, was trying not to think of the twins' last moments.
"I hope they went peacefully," Pike said. "I pray they did."
Pike said their mother kept to herself.
"She had a routine," Pike said. "She'd go to work, come home and unpacked the kids."
The only time she saw the children come out to play was for short periods. That's when the twins buzzed around the driveway in their toy pink jeeps, Pike said.
"I'm never going to see them ride their jeeps together," she said. "I'm never going to see them with their hair done nice with big bows. I'm never going to see them smile."