The four victims allegedly murdered Dec. 21 by Justin Mann and James White are, clockwise from top left, Shanta Myers, 36; Brandi Mells, 22; Shanise Myers, 5; and Jeremiah “JJ” Myers, 11.

2 arrested in murder of lesbian couple, children

Two men have been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the deaths just before Christmas of a lesbian couple and one of the women’s two children in Troy, N.Y.

Justin Mann, 24, and James White, 38, both of  Schenectady, were arrested Friday, Dec. 29 at Mann’s apartment by police acting on tips from the public and information gleaned from security camera footage. Each man had been charged with one count of first degree felony murder and three counts of second degree felony murder. Both have pleaded not guilty.

They are accused of killing Shanta Myers, 36, her girlfriend, Brandi Mells, 22, and Myers’ two children, Shanise Myers, 5, and Jeremiah “JJ” Myers, 11, whose bodies were found Dec. 26 in the basement apartment on Second Avenue where they lived. Police believe that the four were killed five days earlier, at about 9 p.m. on Dec. 21.

All four were reportedly bound, and their throats were cut.

Myers’ older son, 15-year-old Isaiah Smith, lives with relatives in Troy but was in Massachusetts at the time of the murder. He reportedly went to the apartment on Dec. 24 to deliver some Christmas presents, but left when no one answered the door, thinking the family was not at home.

Police have not commented on a motive for the brutal killings, but some family members have said that Mann was a friend of Mells’.


Victory in Oregon court

A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals on Dec. 28 let stand $135,000 in damages levied against Melissa and Aaron Klein, the former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Portland-area bakery. The couple were charged with discrimination after refusing on religious grounds to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

The Klein’s had petitioned the appeals court to overturn the ruling by the state’s labor commissioner, saying that the ruling violated their constitutional right to freedom of religion and expression. The couple closed the bakery not long after being ordered to pay the fine.

Rachel Bowman-Cryer in January tried to order a cake for her then-pending wedding to Laurel Bowman-Cryer, and when Aaron Klein refused saying doing so would violate his religious convictions, the Bowman-Cryers filed a formal complaint with the state labor bureau. That bureau later declared the Kleins’ refusal violated Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws and levied the fine.