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Tragedy in Tacony

Family members say Damyrra Jones lured Max Alcindor to Tacony house. There is also a battle over funeral arrangements.

The investigation continues: Homicide Capt. Jason Smith speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Oct. 15. Police say Damyrra Jones, who survived a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, confessed to killing her husband, Max Alcindor, and two young children. Now, Alcindor’s family is fighting with Jones’ family over custody of the bodies of the children. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

It’s a case that has shocked Northeast Philadelphia.

A mother allegedly opened fire on her husband, 4-year-old daughter and 10-month-old infant before turning the gun on herself inside a house in Tacony.

Police say Damyrra Jones, who suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, confessed to killing her husband, Max Alcindor, and children on the way to the hospital and told paramedics not to resuscitate her. 

Jones was the only one from the scene who survived. Now, she is facing three murder charges.

Alcindor’s family says Jones lured him to the Hegerman Street home on Oct. 14, the fatal night, and say they are currently fighting with Jones’ family over custody of the bodies of the children.

“We are sad,” Alcindor’s sister, Charlotte Gray, told the Northeast Times. “We are frustrated because we cannot get these kids’ bodies to be rested in peace.”

Jones, 28, bought a 9mm Ruger handgun from Delia’s Gun Shop, 6104 Torresdale Ave., in the hours before the apparent murder-suicide attempt, investigators said. It was a legal purchase, according to police.

Officers who responded to the scene found the gun under Jones. 

Alcindor’s family believes the killings were calculated. They say Jones lured Alcindor to the house at 6318 Hegerman St. They had been separated, and Alcindor was seeing another woman and lived elsewhere, his sisters said.

Gay, who lives in Virginia, said the family saw text exchanges between Jones and Alcindor. In one, Jones showed one of the kids crying, begging for her daddy to come home on the day of the shooting, according to Gay.

Alcindor, 35, who died at the scene, was found cradling his 10-month-old daughter Damaya in the kitchen.

There had been increasing tension between Alcindor and Jones, his family said.

Recently, Jones allegedly visited Alcindor’s parents’ house in Philadelphia and broke several windows, Gay said. They declined to pursue charges against the mother of their grandchildren, she added. 

The family said Alcindor had shown up to the hospital with back pain, a broken arm and other injuries, which they attributed to Jones, but he always covered for her.

In addition, Gay claimed Jones was responsible for getting Alcindor fired from his position as a security guard at Home Depot, a job he enjoyed.

Court documents indicate Jones was arraigned Friday on three counts of murder and other crimes. She is being held without bail.

By Tuesday, Oct. 15, a day after the shooting, a small memorial stood outside of the house on the 6300 block of Hegerman Street where Damyrra Jones and her daughters lived. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

A history of mental illness

Eboni Ivey, Jones’ older sister, still has a car seat in her vehicle for her nieces, Damaya and 4-year-old Maxillie.

She watched the sisters every day while Jones was at work. Ivey, who lives in the Northeast, went to church with Jones and the girls the day before the killings.

“These were almost like my daughters,” she said. “It’s just a tragic shock to everybody.”

Jones has a history of mental illness, Ivey said. She said Jones suffered from postpartum depression after Maxillie’s birth, and she was hospitalized a couple of years ago after a suicide attempt.

Around the time Damaya was born, Jones caught Alcindor cheating, Ivey said. He soon left Jones, which was a lot for her to handle, her sister added.

“I’m not trying to justify, like say what she did was right,” Ivey said. “I still really can’t believe it.”

Ivey said she has not been allowed to speak to Jones since the shooting. 

“My sister, she definitely loved those kids. She did anything for those kids,” she said. “I don’t know what happened or how she just snapped or whatever the case may be.”

Not yet laid to rest

Alcindor’s sisters said the bodies of Damaya and Maxillie remain at the Medical Examiner’s Office.

There’s a dispute between the families over who should be able to bury the kids. The Alcindor family wants one service with the children buried alongside their father, while Ivey said her family wants a separate ceremony. 

Max Alcindor and Max Alcindor with his daughters, Maxillie and Damaya. SOURCE: ALCINDOR FAMILY

“Max died with those kids,” Gay said. “They need to be buried together with one service.” 

Moreover, Alcindor’s relatives said they were not notified of the shooting until 12 hours after it happened. By that time, Jones’ family had already begun the process of claiming the children’s bodies, they said.

Gay said the bodies have been put on hold until an agreement can be reached. The family has retained an attorney to work on the case. 

The idea of having two services has been discussed, but Alcindor’s family isn’t going for it.

“It’s either they give us the kids to be buried with Max since they died together or nobody’s going to have those kids’ bodies to be buried,” Gay said.

Ivey said her family thinks Alcindor’s relatives are blaming them for the deaths. Having one ceremony, excluding Jones’ family, would be “selfish,” she said. Ivey said a ceremony with both families could create a scene. 

“Now, since this happened, they’re going to try to make this big spectacle like they were in these kids’ lives every day,” Ivey said. 

“We didn’t do it, and we’re affected, too,” she added. “It’s a really hard and tragic situation for both sides.” 

A GoFundMe has been started by Alcindor’s family to help cover the funeral expenses for Max, Maxillie and Damaya. It had raised $1,150 through Tuesday with a goal of $100,000. Ivey said her family had not authorized a fundraiser and is not asking for money. 

Dreams of being a doctor

Max Alcindor came from a big Haitian family, with seven sisters and four brothers. He immigrated to Philadelphia about 10 years ago, his sisters said.

“He always laughed,” Gay recalled. “No matter what he’s going through, you will always see his teeth.” 

Alcindor had dreams of becoming a doctor, but the family couldn’t afford to send him to medical school after moving to the United States. Gay said he began hanging with a group that partied a lot. It included Jones, whom she saw as a negative influence.

Recently, Alcindor had decided to get his life together. His family said he got a new job in New Jersey and was receiving training at night to become an electrician.

Gay and another sister, Daphne, said they believe Jones was angry that Alcindor had left her and wanted to improve his situation.

The shooting has scarred the large family.

“(Jones) killed a lot of people who loved Max. We will never be able to forgive what she did because Damyrra not only killed Max and the two nieces that we have and love,” Gray said. “She also killed Max’s brother, Max’s mother, a lot of family.”

Dealing with trauma

Capt. John Walker, commander of the 15th Police District, said the incident was traumatizing for many. 

The officers who responded to the scene, the doctors and nurses who tried to save the children’s lives, the neighbors who heard the gunshots and called 911, the kids on the block who played with Maxillie. All were affected, he said.

Officers who arrived at the home made a tactical entry because they believed people may have been actively shooting inside. Instead, they found four people with gunshot wounds to the head and neck.

“Unfortunately when you see kids that are of that age, it does take you to another level of emotions,” Walker said.

A couple of hours after the shooting, responding officers were back at the station for a post-incident review to talk about how they were feeling.

Counselors from Penn Behavioral Health were made available at that time and also during roll call for the next two days, Walker said. 

“These situations are never easy on anybody,” he said. “Doing these things, I think, helps the mental health of everybody involved and helps them get back on track a lot quicker than in the past.”

The police department, he said, has worked hard to break the stigma around emotional support. He believes a similar stigma is attached to mental health in the general population.

Walker said there were no domestic 911 calls to the house and no domestic calls involving Jones and Alcindor at all, which leads him to believe that Jones’ actions may have stemmed from mental health issues. 

“Getting on that scene that night and looking at it, I told my officers right away: ‘It’s a horrifying situation but you clearly see a mother that was stressed out over something and obviously didn’t have the support or feel she had the support,’” he said.

Walker added that a motive had yet to be fully determined.

Ivey said she and her mother wanted to thank the 15th District officers who rushed to try to save the children’s lives. Officers blocked intersections to get Maxillie and Damaya to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children as fast as possible.

“Some of the cops always get a bad rap, but all of them are not bad,” Ivey said. “We definitely appreciate it.” ••

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