Mothers who kill

Police remove the bodies of twin toddlers on the 6300 block of Ditman Street in the Northeast on Thursday. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

This post has been updated.

The Tacony neighborhood where police say a 41-year-old woman murdered her 18-month-old twins, attempted to poison her 4-year-old daughter, then tried to kill herself on Thursday morning was reeling in the wake of the shocking crime.

"I was surprised when I heard that. I've been living in Philly more than 50 years, and I never heard anything like this. Especially with kids, little babies," neighbor Rafael Hernandez, 63, said as he sat across the street from the house where the kids were killed.

Mary Zajak, 36, a mother of four who also lives on the block, choked up when she talked about her neighbor's alleged slaying of her children.

"It broke my heart and brought me to tears," Zajak said. "I don't know why any mother would kill their kid. I'm really upset."

Between disbelieving neighbors' chats, tensions ran high on part of the crowded street as police investigated the double murder, and a fight broke out up the block. Police at the scene rushed to separate two women who appeared to be shouting at each other over their own children.

Reshia Jones, 17, who has a baby due in August and lives a few doors down from where the children were killed, said she was shocked.

"When I heard she killed her babies, I thought, 'Why?' That family was so together," Jones said.

The woman was the second this year to allegedly murder two of her children.

Last Aug. 31, Chanthy Mao, 27, admitted she stabbed her 8-year-old son, Savann Mao, and 12-year-old daughter, Savanna Mao, to death in their South Philadelphia home. After stabbing the children in their beds with a kitchen knife, the mother swallowed rat poison in a suicide attempt. She was treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and charged with murder. Family told police Chanthy had been depressed.

Last March 26, Donna Evans, 39, bludgeoned her daughter, Madison Evans, 11, to death then killed herself at their home in North Heidelberg Township, near Reading. She left notes saying she was upset over a broken relationship.

Possibly the most sensational case in Philadelphia was that of Marie Noe, now 83,  who was charged with suffocating eight of her 12 babies between 1949 and 1968. She was sentenced to five years house arrest and 20 years on probation with the justification that she must be studied by experts to understand why a woman would kill her babies. The studies never happened.

According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the U.S. each year.

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