The troubled New York City mother accused of stabbing her two young sons to death—then concealing their bodies under a pile of clothes in a bathtub filled with water—may have done so because she believed they were possessed by demons, her heartbroken family revealed Sunday.
The bodies of the boys—Daishawn Fleming, 3, and Octavius Canada, 11 months old—were found by Canada’s father on Saturday night at a family shelter in the Bronx, police told the New York Post. The gruesome discovery came nearly an hour after cops brought their mother, Dimone “Brenda” Fleming, to the hospital.
“Despite the officers’ best efforts, both children succumbed to their injuries,” NYPD Deputy Chief Louis De Ceglie said at a press conference.
“Octavius would never cry—and you know babies, they cry about everything.... He was a happy go-lucky happy baby,” Casey Canada, Octavius’ great-aunt, told the New York Daily News. “Daishawn just wanted to play with toys. When he came over, he just wanted to play with blocks.”
Canada explained that while Fleming “definitely loved” her children, she had been obsessing over demonic entities prior to their deaths. “She thought the kids were devils. She said she was afraid of them,” Canada said.
Officers had responded to a carbon monoxide-related 911 call at around 7:20 p.m. only to find Fleming, 22, naked and acting erratically, police said. According to the Daily News, Fleming had attempted to burn “stones” in the oven—potentially charcoal—which is likely what set the alarms off.
While at the third-floor apartment, they turned the running water off in the bathtub full of clothes, unaware the boys were there. Fleming was taken to a local hospital and the officers were told the boys were with Columbus Canada, Octavius’s father, who was on the fourth floor of the building at the time of the first call.
“There wasn’t anything obvious to suggest there were dead kids in there,” an NYPD source told the Post. “There was no blood.”
Once he got back to the apartment, Columbus Canada discovered the boys’ bodies—with stab wounds to their torsos and necks—and frantically summoned help, according to the Post. He and the building staff quickly called the police again, who arrived just before 8 p.m. to find the father trying to perform CPR on them. The children were brought to another local hospital, where they were declared dead.
“The police officers who responded—I think they did a great job,” De Ceglie said. “It’s something that they are going to have to live with and think about, probably for the rest of their lives.”
Police believe Fleming stabbed the boys to death. She was in custody and undergoing psychiatric care as of Sunday evening, with no charges yet filed against her. Police have yet to release a motive, with Casey Canada declining to speculate to the Daily News.
“I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is that my grandkids are f***ing dead,” she said.
Columbus Canada has been cooperative with police, according to the Post, telling investigators he had left the apartment after a fight with Fleming the day prior and slept in his car.
Witnesses told the newspaper they saw Fleming walking in circles and acting irrationally, mumbling to herself outside the building.
“She was walking and stopping, and turning around, and walking and stopping, with both hands on the back of her head! Saying, ‘What I did?! What I did?!’” said Francis Pimentel, who was waiting for a cab outside the building. “I went up to her and said, ‘Miss are you okay?’ and she stopped and looked at me, her face was crazy and then just kept walking back and forth stop[ing] and saying, ‘What I did?! What I did?!’”
While police had responded to a previous domestic incident involving Fleming, she did not have a history of mental health issues, according to the Daily News.
Neighbor Charlotte Obiri told The New York Times the image of the boys being taken from the building remained seared in her brain and left her “throwing up.”
“They brought the baby out, and they was working on him — and then the little boy, they brought him out on a gurney, and he looked lifeless,” Obiri said. “He was naked, and he looked lifeless. I still see the image in my head.”