Crime
10:56 am
Fri September 2, 2011

East St. Louis mother charged in shotgun killings of 2 children

Updated at 3:20 pm with information from  the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

Updated with comments from Yokeia Smith's family and officials

Updated at 1:15 pm to correct amount of bail and add information on father of the slain son.

A 25-year-old East St. Louis woman faces first degree murder charges for allegedly shooting two of her children in the head with a shotgun.

4-year-old Yokela Smith and 5-year-old Levada Brown were fatally  shot Wednesday evening. An 8-year-old-son escaped and is with family.

The scene was one of the most horrific and heartbreaking East St. Louis police chief Ranodore Foggs had seen in years.

"These children could have grown up some day to live meaningful lives and contribute greatly to this community, this world, and they will no longer have that opportunity," Foggs said.

Yokeia Smith is currently in jail in St. Louis city on assault and armed criminal action charges for allegedly striking two pedestrians with her car at the corner of Memorial and Market in downtown St. Louis later on Wednesday. She was carying a shotgun when she was arrested, but officials would not say if it was the same gun used in the crime. Smith's bond in the city is set at $100,000 cash-only. The St. Louis city prosecutor's office says if Smith makes bond in St. Louis, she will be released to authorities in Illinois, where a judge refused bail.

There is no timeframe on her extradition to Illinois.  If Smith is convicted, she could spend the rest of her life in prison.

A prior history with police

Smith has a criminal record, including a felony, but nothing this violent, said St. Clair County state's attorney Brendan Kelly. A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services says officials substantiated an allegation of neglect against the family in December 2007.

Police stepped in briefly to take protective custody of the three children, but spokesman Kendall Marlowe says a relative stepped in to make sure the children were taken care of. Marlowe says DCFS employees offered Smith a variety of social services between February 2008 and April 2009, but she refused most. A second allegation of neglect made in March 2011 was unfounded, Marlowe said.

Kelly, the prosecutor, would not speculate on a motive, but said there was no indication Smith had a diminished mental capacity.

"She's aware of where she is, what happened, what she's doing," Kelly said.  "I have no reason to believe at this point that there's anything that led to diminish her mental capacity in a way that she did not understand what she was doing and the consequences of her actions," he said.

"We don't understand it either," family says.

Smith's aunt, Martenia Jones, said the family is standing by the suspect despite the brutal nature of the crime.

"She needs us now more than ever," Jones said, fighting off tears. "We do not know why this happened. we have no clue. We don't understand it either."

The father of the murdered boy is serving a 13-year federal prison sentence for a bank robbery he committed to support his son.

The man, Levada Brown, pleaded guilty in 2007 to participating in the theft of nearly $36,000 from a credit union in Alton, Ill.