WEST DEPTFORD, N.J. – A young man was charged Friday with strangling his half-sisters, ages 6 and 10, and attacking his mother in a rampage at the family home.
Marqueese Lee, 20, was charged with two counts or murder and one count of aggravated assault, said Bernie Weisenfeld, a spokesman for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.
Authorities went to the home Thursday evening when a neighbor reported the girls' mother, Lucille Bevans, had been struck in the head with a hammer. She escaped with her 1-year-old nephew but said the girls were still inside.
Police broke into the home and recovered the girls' bodies, according to witnesses. All the while, Lee was barricaded in the living room, holding a knife to his chest, said Thomas Sullivan, chief of detectives for the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office.
Lee was taken into custody a short time later.
Bail was set at $750,000. Lee has been transferred to the county jail after his mental health was evaluated at an undisclosed facility earlier in the day, Weisenfeld said.
Prosecutors and police did not immediately know if Lee had an attorney.
Neighbors in the middle-class Philadelphia suburb said the girls, India Duncan, 6, and Aliah Scott, 10, were happy kids.
India liked to chase neighbor Mike Fouch's dog. Aliah was recognizable as a junior safety officer at her school. They wore braided hair extenders and often asked if they could take a dip in one neighbor's pool.
"They were so cute," said Shayla Wilson, who lives down the street.
Lee often watched the girls while their mother was working; neighbors said Bevans is a fast-food restaurant manager. She was released from a hospital Friday after being treated for her injuries.
Neighbors said Lee had dropped out of high school but seemed to have many friends.
Township police had been at the house at least once previously for a domestic situation involving Lee and his mother, Sullivan said.