A 14-year-old boy from Staten Island is being accused of a horrific crime. Police say C.J. Jones slit the throats of his two sisters before setting their apartment on fire and killing himself. Jones' mother and 2-year-old brother were also killed in the incident, authorities say.
Friends and neighbors are shocked as authorities try to piece together the events of Thursday morning. They describe a good family and a boy that they feel was incapable of committing this unthinkable crime.
"They were the best family. The kids would play with my kids, we went to pool together, church together, cookouts together," said Criseena Lee, a neighbor who described herself as a good friend of the Jones family.
"C.J. was a sensitive boy, he was not a bad person," she said.
Lee saw no warning signs between C.J. and his family and never saw him cause trouble in the neighborhood.
However police are reportedly telling a different story, describing C.J. as a troubled teen who had allegedly been caught setting small fires.
According to WABC New York, police say C.J. was ejected from a public pool only a few days before the deadly incident for setting a fire, and neighbors allegedly caught Jones setting paper on fire in front of their building in recent days.
Police are saying the apartment fire was started near the front door and are speculating that it was intended to prevent anyone inside from escaping as well as to make it more difficult for firefighters to enter.
The Jones' three neighbors were able to escape the blaze unharmed, but when firefighters entered the family's apartment they discovered the bodies of C.J.'s 32-year-old mother Leisa, 10-year-old sister Brittney, 7-year-old sister Melonie and 2-year-old brother Jermaine. According to police, at least C.J.'s two sisters' throats were slit; his brother was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead after suffering from smoke inhalation.
Police say that C.J.'s body was found in a separate back bedroom with his own throat slit; a straight razor was discovered underneath his body.
California Clinical and Forensic Neurological Psychologist Michael Perrotti said that acts of teenage self-mutilation and suicide -- including slitting one's throat -- is rare but can occur.
"Neurologically, young people don't have the control adults do. Depression is more severe, violent acts more extreme," he said.
Teenagers are also more impulsive, he points out, which can fit with a pattern of fire setting similar to that of C.J. Jones.
"Something is significantly wrong with the controlling impulse of that person. Some people are very angry about things and displace it on fire settings.
"It's a mental state, staging of violence leading to greater violence," he said. "It percolates inside them, long before the act happens, particularly within families."
According to the New York Medical Examiner's Office, an autopsy on the bodies will be conducted today.