By Jim Suhr
BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois woman accused of gunning down two of her children was denied bail and granted a public defender Friday before being led in shackles back to the jail and isolated confinement under suicide watch.
Yokeia Smith faces two counts of first-degree murder. Associate St. Clair County Judge Julie Katz entered a not guilty plea on the 25-year-old’s behalf during Friday’s brief arraignment. A day earlier, the single mother of three agreed to be returned to Illinois from St. Louis, where she was arrested shortly after the Aug. 31 killings.
Smith, shackled at the wrists and ankles and appearing disheveled, declined an Associated Press reporter’s request for comment as sheriff’s deputies led her shuffling from the courtroom back to jail.
Authorities say Smith killed her 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter with close-range shotgun blasts to the head in their East St. Louis apartment. Smith’s 8-year-old son escaped unharmed and is in the custody of relatives.
Investigators have offered no details about what may have motivated the killings, and no such explanation may be made public anytime soon. Smith was indicted last week during closed-door grand jury proceedings that take the place of open-court preliminary hearings in which testimony and evidence would have been presented.
Smith’s relatives have publicly pledged their support for her, saying she was bipolar and on anti-depression medication. Smith’s lengthy criminal background includes a litany of traffic offenses and various instances of assault and battery, most of them misdemeanors that authorities have suggested were not indicators that Smith’s legal troubles would escalate to murder.
Smith told a judge Friday her income was $674 in monthly Social Security benefits.
Smith’s family previously had worked to ensure the well-being of her children after two Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigations into her parenting between December 2007 and March this year. Those probes were prompted by allegations of child neglect, but there were no reports involving physical abuse and Smith never lost custody of her children, the child-welfare agency has said.
No new court appearance was set on Friday for Smith.
She also faces charges of armed criminal action and first-degree assault in St. Louis after she drove into two pedestrians near the city’s Gateway Arch shortly after the children were killed. Police seized a shotgun from Smith during that arrest. Her next court appearance in those charges has been scheduled for Oct. 11.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.