Stone-faced investigators detailed Friday a desperate search — by land, air and water — to find 2-year-old twins on Long Island whose mother allegedly refused to give up their location, telling authorities they were already dead, before the little girls were found in cardiac arrest at a county park.
It started with a 911 call from 24-year-old Tenia Campbell's mother around 2:30 p.m. Thursday, officials said. Campbell's mother, who had Tenia on another line, told the 911 operator her daughter had threatened to kill herself and her toddler twins, Jasmine and Jaida.
A three-way call was initiated. The call lasted nearly 12 minutes. Tenia Campbell, at times hysterical, would not tell the 911 operator where her daughters were, police said. Officials then described an exhaustive 90-minute search that included State Police, park rangers and the U.S. Coast Guard to find the girls.
By the time they were able to triangulate Campbell's location — at the entrance to Montauk County Park — it would be too late. Campbell had walked to the nearby highway and greeted responding officers with demands to "shoot her," police officials said. Her twin toddlers were found in their car seats in Campbell's minivan, which was pulled over on the side of a park entrance road under a sprawling tree. Both were in cardiac arrest -- and pronounced dead at a hospital a short time later.
Describing the park entrance as "a scene you cannot imagine," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "As the father of three young kids, it's unimaginable and beyond tragic — those two girls, Jasmine and Jaida, those beautiful young girls who lost their lives yesterday. Today in Suffolk County our hearts are broken."
A cause of death for the toddlers remains under investigation; police said there was no outward sign of trauma to their bodies. Autopsies are expected to be conducted on Friday.
The girls' mother blocked her face with her hands and said nothing as she was led out of court and remanded to jail following her arraignment Friday on two counts of second-degree murder. Her lawyer also declined comment.
If convicted of both second-degree murder counts, Campbell faces 25 years to life in prison. She also has a 4-year-old son, who was found unharmed at a separate location amid the intense search for his sisters.