The bizarre case of two Pennsylvania women who are accused of the grisly murders of five family members in February will skip the step of a preliminary hearing and go straight to an arraignment next month.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Shana Decree, 46, and her daughter Dominique, 19, were originally scheduled to appear before a district judge on Thursday, but the pair decided to waive the hearing. In it, the prosecutor would have presented evidence and ask the judge to hold the case for trial.
Lawyers for the two women declined to comment, but John Fioravanti Jr., co-counsel to Dominique Decree’s public defender, told The Inquirer that the waiver was part of a strategy that would allow the defendants more time to review the case.
With the waiver, the case heads directly to a Buck County, Pa., court
The mother and daughter gained national attention when the lifeless bodies of five of their relatives were found in the apartment the family shared. Among the victims were Shana’s sister, teenage son and 9-year-old twin nieces. The Inquirer reports that the Buck County medical examiner ruled that four of the victims were asphyxiated, and one victim, Jamilla Campbell, was strangled. All five deaths have been ruled homicides and the women have been charged with several counts of murder.
Little to no other information has been made public about the case, including no word on a motive. Prior to the killings, a caseworker from Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services had been working with the family and other family members had been struggling to get in touch with them.
The Inquirer also reports that few communications they had with others were cryptic, family members said, recalling messages laden with bizarre religious imagery, including talk of “demons” and preparing to enter the “pearly gates.”
In the initial days after the slayings, family members told officials that they believed a religious cult was behind the bahavior of the two women.
Damon Decree, Sr., whose ex-wife and daughter are accused, confirmed the family had been “talking about demons being all around them,” before the two allegedly killed his son, Damon Jr.
“Apparently they had dissected into some type of cult that they materialized online. I don’t know how or what kind of cult,” he said at the time
According to the Inquirer, in a chilling statement to investigators, Shana and Dominique claimed the victims, including the children, “wanted to die” and had been discussing suicide. The two women confessed to killing their family in what police says appears to be a “murder-suicide pact,” but the pair differ in their stories on who killed whom and in what manner.
In March, Deputy District Attorney, Christopher W. Rees, asked for a bigger courtroom so the family could have more space. Rees assured the public that though the process may be lengthy, they are determined to bring the women to justice.
“This is only the first step in a very long process,” Rees said of the waived hearing. “And I assure you that the Morrisville Borough Police, Bucks County detectives and Bucks County District Attorney’s office will continue to make sure these two women are brought to justice.”
A specific date for a formal arraignment, in which a trial judge will be selected, have not been set yet, according to the Bucks County Courier-Times. Both women are being held without bail, according to court documents.