Shanta Myers Shanice Myers Brandi Mells

One of the family members of the quadruple murder victims in Troy, NY, told The Daily Beast that victim Brandi Mells, 22, was friends with Justin C. Mann, 24, who is charged with slaughtering her and her girlfriend's family.

Police say Mells, who was born with dwarfism was targeted by the killers. Mells, pictured above with girlfriend Shanta Myers, 36, was also the target of school bullies due to her small stature.

Mann, of Schenectady, and his accomplice James W. White, 38, were arrested Friday night at Mann's Schenectady residence and arraigned Saturday morning in Troy City Court. They were both charged with one count of first-degree murder and 4 counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Mells, Myers, 36, and Myers's children Jeremiah, 11, and Shanice, 5.

White arrived in court wearing a tear-resistant white paper jumpsuit that is provided to inmates who express suicidal thoughts. He appeared emotional during his arraignment.

Tips from the public and surveillance video, both public and private, led police to Mann and White, officials said. The use of surveillance video prompted speculation that the killers rode public transportation to and from the murder scene.

Troy's public transportation department installed high-res surveillance equipment on all city buses.

Troy Police Chief John Tedesco said the four victims were brutally slaughtered around 9 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 21 -- about the time when communication between Mells and her family stopped.

5 days later, Mells's relatives asked the property manager to check on Mells in the basement apartment -- 1 of 5 apartments in the house along the east bank of the Hudson River.

Mells’ cousin, Sharonda Bennett, told The Daily Beast that repeated calls to Mells' cellphone went unanswered on Dec. 21. She said every time she called Mells, her calls went to voicemail.

Bennett said she last spoke to Mells on Dec. 19. Mells was considering whether to spend Christmas in Troy or Paterson, New Jersey, where Mells' family lives.

Her options were limited due to the couple's finances. Both Mells and Myers were short on cash, and neither woman owned a car.

The family would have taken the Greyhound bus from Troy to New Jersey, Bennett said.

Mells and Myers met 3 years ago in Troy. Mells invited Myers to move in with her after the older woman and her children were evicted from their apartment in April. Bennett said the two women got engaged this year.

“If you would have been in that household, you would have felt they were together for centuries,” Bennett said.

Due to the lack of space in the small efficiency apartment, Myers asked her sister, Shakera Symes, to take in her eldest son Isaiah Smith, 15.

The teenager told reporters he went to the apartment on Dec. 23 to deliver Christmas presents for his younger siblings, but no one answered the door. He left for Massachusetts believing the family had stepped out for a bit.

Isaiah was away at a basketball tournament when he got the shocking news that his mother and siblings were killed. He took the news hard. "I fell down to the floor right in the bathroom and cried thinking who would've done this?" he told CBS6.

Mells’ mother last saw her on Dec. 21st but couldn’t reach her by phone after 11 p.m, according to the Times Union. She tried getting into the Second Avenue house that night, but the door was locked, Bennett said. The next day, she asked Bennett if she had talked to Mells.

“We were kind of worried,” Bennett said. “It was unlike Brandi not to be contacted.” The family initially assumed Myers and Mells decided to spend Christmas in Troy.

When Christmas came and went without a phone call from Mells, her anxious mother asked the property manager to check and see if Mells was at home or if she packed up and left for New Jersey.

The property manager entered the basement apartment the day after Christmas and discovered the grisly scene. The four bodies were in one room, Bennett said.

Police say a bloody knife was found on a ledge near a closet, and a second blade was found on a bed near the children's bodies.

The children were found kneeling on the floor with their heads and chests resting on the bed.

According to the Albany Times Union, one of the women was found on a mattress on the floor. The other woman was discovered face down on the floor with a sheet covering her body.

Bennett said Mells worked odd jobs after dropping out of high school. She planned on obtaining her GED, and she talked of becoming a counselor for troubled children.

Brandi was the youngest in her family and the only girl raised in a house of boys. She was born with dwarfism, which made her a target for bullies in school.

Bennett said she would be ready to snap at people if they looked at Mells the wrong way for having dwarfism, but Mells would tell her, “No, it’s okay. It’s okay.”

“She started accepting [her dwarfism]. She started embracing it, making jokes” Bennett told The Daily Beast. “She was okay with it after a while.”

“She never would have wanted to have a confrontation at all. She hasn’t had a problem with anybody. That’s why I don’t understand how or why. Who would make her an enemy,” Bennett said.

Mells eventually moved to the Syracuse, NY area to live with her father and attend high school there.

"Brandi was loving,” Bennett told The Daily Beast. “She was the sweetest person you could ever meet. She had such a big heart. She would give the shirt off her back. Honestly, what would anybody get or gain from harming her?”

Days before Brandi was murdered, she scoured Facebook classifieds searching for gifts for Myers' children.

Shanta Myers Brandi Mells

The 22-year-old, pictured above right with Shanta and Shanice, offered tires for sale, desperate to scrape together money for Christmas presents.

“Is anybody still adopting kids for xmas i have a 5, 11, an 15 year old,” Brandi wrote on Dec. 19, in a local Facebook group. “Pockets are tight dont really have it anything helps. Games toys clothes shoes.”

In another Facebook group on Dec. 17, Brandi Mells wrote: “If anyone have ps3 or xbox1 systems with games for my two boys they don't have anything for Christmas anything help."

A week before that, she gushed about raising Myers' kids.

"Having kids doesn’t make you a parent. Rasing [sic] them does.”

Friends of Shanta Myers say she struggled to overcome obstacles as a single mother to 3 children.

America Ray, 33, says she met Myers six years ago at a WIC office where Ray worked in Troy. At the time, Myers was pregnant with her youngest child, Shanice.

The women quickly bonded when they discovered they were neighbors at a River Street apartment complex.

After Shanice was born, Myers asked Ray to be the baby's godmother.

“It’s hard to imagine that this is real,” said Ray. “She was a hardworking mom. Her kids were her world.”

Ray said Myers did maintenance and outreach for the Joseph’s House shelter, and worked various jobs cooking, cleaning and babysitting around the Troy area.

Ray said Myers was an amazing cook, who was well-known on the block for her macaroni & cheese. “People would beg her to eat her food,” Ray recalls.

After Myers moved in with Mells, Ray moved to Albany. Myers wanted a new beginning, Ray said. She wanted to relocate to Albany and land a new job so she could provide for her children.

“When someone wants a new start, they’re not happy,” Ray said, adding, “I have no idea who could do this to her.”

“It’s important that the community remember who Shanta was,” Ray added. “She really did care about people. No matter what she was going through, I mean some hardcore stuff, she just cared about people.”

  • Li

    What's the motive? The men didn't steal anything (valuable) so what was the motive for the kill? Maybe a FB visit will tell.

  • You Could Never

    I just read this earlier. This is awful man.

  • Malcom Flex

    RIP!!! Where's the punks who lurk here what they got to say about murdering black males?! NOTHING but all up in black women's hair. Our culture is a lost cause the men don't give a damn about protecting women kids and community and spent more time sounding like jealous hairdressers.

  • free

    The terror those kids had to go through. I hope it happened quickly.

  • MookieFly

    This is sad, especially right around the holiday. I hope they rest in peace.

  • MsChocCookie

    I want to know WHY, what was the motive for this heinous, crime??? No good low life MOFO'S.....

  • the guest

    My heart is sincerely broken for this family. I mean just broken. I'm glad SR updated with this personal insight into these two good souls and the three beautiful children they gave their hearts to.

    My goodness, where is the gofundme for this truly amazing 15 year old son who loved his mother and siblings so dearly and deserves all of our support making it through this grief.

    God, it breaks my heart to think of loving parents struggling to provide Christmas presents. They didn't deserve to struggle or suffer. Rest in Peace family of angels.

  • bemetoo

    Why why why???

  • Sad

    I’m sorry but this old tired looking woman with three kids getting with this young small woman doesn’t sit well with me. Messy all around. I feel sorry for all of them but especially the young woman and the three kids. She just wanted to love and be loved. Why would somebody do something so heinous. A special place in hell for them.

  • Yen Pettaway

    The illusion of money will make some slap their own Mom for a million dollars. So many are just lost in the sauce!

  • Kimberly

    Why would they do this? Have they released a motive? It’s so sad...

  • guest

    What was the motive. And he had the audacity to emotional!!?! GTFOH I hope they get life. #riptothevictims

  • nick c

    Apparently there is another quadruple murder that happen less than 10 miles away that's unsolved exactly the same scenario a woman her domestic partner and two kids....

  • A D N


  • Look@m3

    Yeah I really want to know why they did this besides the fact they look like they not in their right mind!

  • Y’all Jealous Cuz I’m Prudy

    She cared about people but NO ONE (including the family who is now speaking up) cared about her enough to help her out when she was down on her luck, with those 3 kids. Dåmn! Smh!

    Those kïlled knew, tgey had no one and was struggling, which made them an easy target.

    God please let all of them rest in heavenly peace, in your arms and in your kingdom. May the surviving son be blessed with an abundance of support, love and financial assistance, so life can become just a little bit easier over time.

  • tintin

    So originally I assumed it was a drug ripoff but reading this it seems as if these pu$$ies are just psycho. I can't believe they killed the kids ?

  • Noirluv45

    After reading this story, I'm more sad than ever. OMG, I can't believe someone could do that to them. The descriptions of the children...I just can't. The remaining son being without his mom and siblings...?

  • facingrealit1

    This is truly sad as I can remember a day when someone in the black community especially would step up and support a friend or family member until they were able to better themselves. However, it is hard to give a hand-up these days as more and more people are putting all of their business out in the public spectrum via Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, GoFund Me, etc, leaving those who would have previously assisted you vulnerable to robberies, murders, rapes, executed most often by those you've befriended in these forums. I would not be surprised if within the confines of one of the communicative mediums is the answer as to why these people were murdered.

  • 100milesperhour

    They were charged w/one count of 1st degree murder, & 3 counts of 2nd degree murder. So the intended target was Mells, & the other 3 just happened to be there. Was Mells in the drug game to supplement her income?

  • Stan4NoOne

    This is incredibly disturbing.

  • dontgetblocked

    Why hurt the children? I believe the two adults got caught up in some mess but they didn't deserve death.There's more to this story...

  • SweetTEE

    This had something to do with money

  • angelpat2812

    This is sad...but can this get any weirder...

  • BeUtFullSoul

    The CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHY??? WHY...kill any OF THEM ,BUT DANG, the CHILDREN!!!!!!!??????????????? WHAT could they have possibly Done to these sadistic cowards?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Ghost

    This is a SAD story...still don't understand they had to MURDER everyone..smh