TROY — The murders of two adults and two children inside a Troy apartment last month happened during a burglary, according to a court document filed Thursday in the case.
The new allegation is attached to a first-degree murder charge, also filed Thursday, against James W. White, 38, one of two men accused of the murders. The charge was filed by prosecutors to ensure White remains in custody.
The new charge accuses White of killing 11-year-old Jeremiah "J.J." Myers in the midst of committing the crime of first-degree burglary, according to the new filing.
Suspects James White (back) and Justin Mann are led from Troy City Court on Saturday. (Peter R. Barber)
A first-degree murder charge filed Friday against White and his co-defendant, Justin C. Mann, 24, was brought because the men are belived to have committed multiple murders.
No new charge was filed against Mann because prosecutors are able to keep him in custody based on a parole violation related to a first-degree robbery conviction out of Queens.
The men are accused of killing Shanta Myers, 36; her children Jeremiah and Shanise, 5; and Myers' partner, Brandi Mells, 22, on Dec. 21.
Clockwise from top left: Shanise Myers, 5; Jeremiah "J.J." Myers, 11; Brandi Mells, 22; and Shanta Myers, 36. (Provided)
The victims were found five days later, on Dec. 26, in their 158 Second Ave. apartment.
Police arrested White and Mann the evening of Dec. 29 at Mann's 627 Hamilton St. residence.
They were each charged with one count of first-degree murder and four counts of second-degree murder. Documents filed with the original charges accused each of killing all four victims.
If convicted of the top murder counts, the men would face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Their Dec. 29 arrests started a clock that led to Thursday's court appearances. Prosecutors must essentially prove to a judge within six days of an arrest that they have enough evidence to hold a defendant in custody beyond the six days.
That can be proved either through a hearing with witnesses or through any felony grand jury indictment.
If prosecutors can't prove they have the evidence to hold someone, don't have an indictment or don't want to tip their hand during a hearing, a defendant must be released.
On Thursday, Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove had no indictment and chose not to proceed with a hearing. But to keep the men in jail, he filed the new murder charge against White and invoked the parole violation against Mann.
White's attorney, Greg Cholakis, objected to Abelove's strategy. Police filed the new murder charge without any new evidence, Cholakis said. Prosecutors also had potential hearing witnesses present, in the event they were needed for a hearing to keep the men in custody.
The purpose of the six-days rule, Cholakis said, is to ensure someone isn't held indefinitely "based on a piece of paper."
Given those factors, Cholakis asked Judge Christopher Maier to either force a hearing Thursday or release White outright.
"They essentially brought the new charge now just to prevent his freedom" and avoid the hearing, Cholakis told the judge.
Abelove argued the new charge properly resets the clock. Maier found he had no other choice than to agree with Abelove and order White held.
Afterward, Mann's attorney, Joseph Ahearn, told reporters that, in his 20-year career, he had never seen the prosecution move used Thursday.
Asked what could be done to appeal the ruling, Cholakis said he could ask County Court to review the issue, an option Cholakis said he is considering.