CAMDEN, N.J. -- A woman who had previously admitted blacking out from drug use decapitated her 2-year-old son and put the head in her home freezer before killing herself, just five months after having regained custody of the child, authorities said Wednesday.
Chevonne Thomas, 33, had lost custody of Zahree Thomas in November 2010 after allegedly leaving the boy unattended in a car, and admitting she had blacked out in a nearby park after smoking marijuana laced with PCP, authorities said.
The woman had just regained custody in April, according to Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor. The state child welfare agency, the Division of Children and Families, had no immediate comment. It has been under the supervision of a federal judge and undergone a major overhaul since 2003 as a result of high-profile lapses in the oversight of children.
Thomas decapitated her son and put his head in the freezer of their Camden home before calling 911 just after midnight Tuesday, police said, then stabbed herself in the neck while officers were outside.
During the 911 call she first accused her boyfriend of stabbing her child, but then said repeatedly “I did it, I did it,” Laughlin said.
Laughlin described the call as “long, rambling, very incoherent.”
Results of toxicology tests will be needed to determine if Thomas was high on drugs at the time.
Officers found Zahree Thomas’ body on the first floor of the home, then found the boy’s head in the freezer. Laughlin said the child’s mother was upstairs still talking to the 911 operator when officers backed out of the home because they didn’t know if she was armed.
The mother stabbed herself in the neck with a kitchen knife, he said.
A medical examiner also found a chest stab wound and marks on the child’s arms, Laughlin said.
Thomas was charged with child endangerment in the 2010 incident but the case was dropped because of a problem with a witness, Laughlin said.
During the investigation Thomas admitted that after blacking out from smoking marijuana laced with PCP, she could not remember where she left her child, he said.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, phencyclidine was discontinued as an anesthetic in 1965 because patients “became agitated, delusional, and irrational.” The institute says it also became a street drug known for causing hallucinations and paranoia.
Neighbor Melanie Troutman said she saw Thomas sitting with her boyfriend in front of their Camden home about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, “clearly upset” and topless. But another neighbor disputed the account that she was topless.
She said the boyfriend led Thomas back into the home a short time later.
Authorities said the boyfriend left before the murder-suicide.
Thelma Moore, a former neighbor who came to the scene of the crime, said she had known Thomas for several years. She said the woman “just walked around and talked and cursed to herself.”
She said Thomas had been seeing a behavioral health therapist and described her as being in “a world all to herself.”
Court records show Thomas faced dozens of judgments and liens filed in civil court in New Jersey dating back to 2002.