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Ariz. child welfare had previous contact with family involved in fatal stabbings

PHOENIX — The Phoenix mother had been transported to the hospital covered in blood with stab wounds to her neck and abdomen when police officers searching her house opened a closet to a grim discovery.

Inside, officers found the bodies of her three young sons.

The bodies of two boys, ages 8 and 5 were placed inside the closet crammed full of miscellaneous items. Deeper inside the closet detectives later discovered the youngest child, who was just 2 months old, stuffed inside a suitcase.

The children appeared to have been stabbed to death and “parts of their bodies were dismembered,” Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said Thursday as investigators processed the bloody scene.

It was “an absolutely horrific scene for the officers and the brother,” Crump said. “Nobody wants to see this happen to a child, nobody.”

The 29-year-old mother, hospitalized in critical condition with self-inflicted stab wounds, is suspected in the killings, police said.

Arizona child welfare officials had prior contacts with the family. The state Department of Child Safety says investigators couldn’t locate the family in 2010 to check reports of a boy with a small abrasion on his forehead.

The department says it also investigated cases in 2011 and 2016 involving marijuana allegations in which it found no legal grounds to take the children into emergency care. One allegation was substantiated, and the other was not.

Director Greg McKay says the department takes seriously its responsibility to protect children but cannot predict the future, including “awful things” that people can do.

Stunned neighbors gathered outside the crime-scene tape surrounding the townhome along a winding one-way street in central Phoenix.

Neighbor Lynn Roberson said the older boys had just learned to ride their bikes a few months ago. First with training wheels, then a week later, without.

“I would always encourage them to keep practicing,” she said, holding a cup of coffee with both hands, standing only a few feet from the police tape.

“There were no red flags,” Roberson said.

Late Wednesday night, the suspect’s brother came home from work to find his sister in the garage. She talked about God and said she’d found the answer to life — something she’d only recently started talking about.

The pair talked a bit, and then the woman went inside locking the door behind her.

The brother forced his way inside, but his sister had already barricaded herself in another room.

It’s unclear how much time passed, but the woman emerged covered in blood with stab wounds across her abdomen and neck, Crump said.

She told her brother she’d done it because she was pregnant — though police have not confirmed that, Crump said.

While the brother went to grab towels for her bleeding, she tried to drown herself in a bathtub, he said.

That’s when the brother called the police.

Officers arrived around 2 a.m., but they didn’t immediately discover the boys’ bodies because the mother lied and told officers her kids were left with a caretaker, police said.

The boys were killed sometime during a several-hour period after the woman’s mother left for work Wednesday evening and her brother returned home from work before midnight, Crump said.

Police identified the boys as Jaikare Rahaman, 8, Jeremiah Adams, 5, and Avery Robinson, 2 months old.

Next-door neighbor Shelley Severns said her children played with the older boys, whom she called “cute little things.”

“I’m still processing all of this. It’s very tragic because you don’t know why this happens,” Severns said.

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