Tenia Campbell of Medford walks to her arraignment in East Hampton...

Tenia Campbell of Medford walks to her arraignment in East Hampton Town Court on June 28, 2019. Credit: John Roca

A Medford mother who smothered her twin 2-year-old girls in June 2019 could be headed to trial after separate psychiatric evaluations arrived at different conclusions about her mental state at the time of the alleged crime, her attorney said.

Tenia Campbell, 28, now must decide if she will plead guilty to murdering daughters Jasmine and Jaida or stand trial before state Supreme Court Justice Richard Ambro in Riverhead.

“Our doctor came back saying she was not responsible based upon her mental disease and defect at the time,” defense attorney John Halverson of Patchogue said following a brief court appearance Wednesday. “Their doctor came back and said she is responsible, she wasn't suffering from mental disease and defect.”

Halverson said it would be a "trial of battling doctors."

Since Campbell’s earliest appearances following the June 27, 2019, killings, Halverson has said he would rely on his client’s history of mental illness for the defense.

He said Wednesday that no one is disputing Campbell killed the toddlers.

“It’s whatever was happening in her world and in her life and in her brain at the time,” he said.

Campbell is facing a four-count indictment charging her with two counts each of first- and second-degree murder.

Prosecutors previously said autopsies of Jasmine and Jaida Campbell showed the twins died of “manual asphyxia” when their mother covered their mouths and noses. 

Campbell was found with the dead girls on June 27, 2019, at the entrance of the Third House Nature Center in Montauk after a desperate search by state police, county park police, Suffolk police, Southampton Town police and, ultimately, the East Hampton police, which found her.

The search started when Campbell’s mother, Vanessa McQueen of Mastic Beach, said her daughter was suicidal and intended to kill the twins. It took an hour and a half to find her in Montauk.

At Campbell’s July 2019 arraignment on the indictment, Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly said Campbell told police she did so with her hands.

“I killed them,” Campbell told police, according to Kelly. “The kids are dead in the car. I killed them with my hands. I can’t kill myself, so someone is going to find me and I’m going to jail.”

McQueen told police at the time that her daughter, a home health care aide, had a history of bipolar disorder and depression, and that she had been acting irrationally in the days leading up to the killings.

Campbell told her mother over the phone on the day of the killings that she had killed the twins “with my bare hands,” McQueen said in a statement to police that was obtained by Newsday at the time.

“I tried to convince her to take a break from the kids and let me have them so she could recharge herself but she always says she can handle it," McQueen said in the statement.

Campbell, who did not make an appearance during Wednesday’s conference, is due back in court June 7.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

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