A woman drowned her infant son and his 5-year-old half brother in a bathtub hours after she called police and told them she was worried about being deported, a Delaware police chief said Tuesday.
Kula Pelima, a native of Liberia who has lived in the U.S. for two decades, called 911 about 3:45 a.m. Monday, fearing that her visa had lapsed, Wilmington Police Chief Robert Tracy said at a news conference. An officer visited her home and said local authorities were not going to arrest her. The officer saw the older boy during the visit and he was awake and well, the chief said. The officer gave Pelima an immigration hotline number to call.
Pelima called 911 again about 8:30 a.m. and said she had drowned her son, 4-month-old Solomon Epelle, and 5-year-old Alex Epelle, authorities said.
Pelima, 30, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and was being held on $2 million bond. It’s not clear if she has a lawyer yet.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement couldn’t immediately provide any information on Pelima’s status.
There was a strong odor of gas in her apartment, but it was not clear if the gas stove had been turned on intentionally, the chief said. The building was evacuated but no one was hurt by the fumes.
“There’s no way of knowing what could have led to the deaths of these children,” Tracy said, adding that the crime was shocking even to hardened officers.
Pelima’s boyfriend, the father of both boys, is a native of Nigeria. He was taken into custody by immigration authorities in Pennsylvania on Sept. 14. The couple lived together in Wilmington, and she helped care for both children, the police chief said.
Victor Epelle, 38, was in the United States legally, but he had violated the terms of his status, ICE said. It wasn’t immediately clear what he had done.
He was released from custody Monday on humanitarian grounds after being notified of the deaths of his sons.
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