TROY — Troy police on Thursday identified four people found dead earlier this week in a Second Avenue apartment, as the investigation of the crime continued and a family mourned its loss.
Shanta Myers, 36; Jeremiah "J.J." Myers, 11; Shanise Myers, 5, and Brandi Mells, 22, were found dead Tuesday afternoon inside 158 Second Ave. Jeremiah and Shanise were Shanta's children, and Mells was her partner, police said.
Police also released photos of the victims, in hopes of getting information from residents that could help find the killer or killers.
Meanwhile, the victims' families continued to process the tragedy.
Shanta Myers loved to cook, relatives said. Her son loved to play basketball and hoped to be a fireman someday. Shanise was always interested in everyone's activities. Mells, Shanta's partner, took in the family after they lost a previous apartment.
"I just want to face the people that did this to my family," Shanta Myers' nephew Khalif Coleman told The Daily Gazette Thursday. "I just want to face them face to face and ask them why? Just why?"
Evidence recovered from the apartment indicates the slayings were not random, police have said. Beyond that, police have no suspects.
Tips can be called in to the police department directly at 518-270-4421, or anonymously online at CapitalRegionCrimeStoppers.com.
Albany pastor Charlie Muller, of Victory Christian Church, offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
The Troy Boys & Girls Club is also raising money through a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of funeral services. Jeremiah had been a member of the cub for six years.
The apartment building's property manager, alerted to check the welfare of the residents, discovered the bodies and called police, police said.
Coleman recalled his slain relatives Thursday. Shanise had the same birthday as his own son.
The family followed relatives to the Capital Region from New York City, by way of New Jersey, for a chance to start over, Coleman said.
He called his aunt, Shanta Myers, a wonderful woman and a great cook who liked to see the good in people. She also took the time to listen to people, he said.
"If you had your own problems, even if she had her own problems, she would listen to you before you got a chance to hear her problems," Coleman said.
He called Jeremiah an amazing boy.
"He was a kid with a lot of heart, a lot of spirit," Coleman said. "He had a lot of enthusiasm."
Shortly after the family moved to Troy, Coleman recalled Jeremiah would play across the street from a local fire station. That sparked the boy's interest in firefighting, Coleman said.
The boy didn't have a direct father figure in his life, a role Coleman tried to fill, he said.
Jeremiah was a student at Troy Middle School, while his sister attended School 14, according to the Troy Central School District.
The district is offering counseling through both schools.
"Our hearts are broken, and our thoughts and deepest condolences are with their family and loved ones during this terribly troubling time," district Superintendent John Carmello said in a prepared statement.
Of Jeremiah's little sister, Coleman said she was a child with a big heart who also had a stubborn streak.
When adults had a conversation, he recalled, the girl frequently tried to get involved.
"She was only 5 years old," Coleman said. "Her personality was just developing."
Shanta Myers had an older son who lived with relatives at the time of this week's discovery. The boy, Isaiah, 15, was at a basketball tournament in Massachusetts on Tuesday, Coleman said.
The family had lived together in a Troy apartment until recent months, when an eviction led them to move in with Mells, Coleman said. Mells' small Second Avenue apartment did not have room for the teenager to have his own space, so another family member took him in, Coleman said.
"He's the only one left," Coleman said.
Coleman busied himself Thursday trying to pull together a gathering to honor his slain relatives. He said he has also been working to keep himself together for the rest of his family.
"I cried enough, trust me," Coleman said. "I let out a lot of tears."
But then returns that question: Why the adults? Why the children?
If whoever did this had a dispute with either Shanta Myers or Mells, Coleman said, the dispute should have stayed with them.
"The kids have nothing to do with it," Coleman said. "This is why I'm confused. This is why I need Troy to give something."