Vigil held in Palm Bay for 3 slain children

Jessica Lacey McCarty faces murder charges

PALM BAY, Fla. – It was standing room only inside Palm Bay Christian Church on Monday night as an entire community came to remember three children allegedly killed at the hands of their own mother.

A 5-month-old boy died Sunday night at an Orlando hospital, the third child to die in the attack Friday evening in Palm Bay that led to the arrest of the children's mother.


[MORE: Palm Bay Mayor's statement on slayings ]

Palm Bay police said Christopher Swist had been kept alive on life support all weekend after he was found by his father Friday afternoon with a cord wrapped around his neck.

The pictures of Laci, 7, Philip, 6, and 5-month-old Christopher were put on a projector screen as scripture was read to a packed crowd that filled the church.

Family members attended, but did not want to speak to the media.

"The thought of these helpless innocent children struggling for their lives is just simply gut-wrenching," said Palm Bay Police Chief Mark Renkens. "As a father of two, myself, it's simply unimaginable."

According to an arrest report, Palm Bay police said the child's mother, Jessica Lacey McCarty, 33, called 911 on Friday to report she had killed all three of her children and cut her own wrist and neck and needed help at their home on Kenmore Street.

Investigators said McCarty had texted pictures of the bloody scene inside her home to the infant's father, who also called 911 to report something was wrong.

Once police arrived, according to the report, they found McCarty at the front door with a knife in her hand. They said she was apprehended quickly.

Inside the home, Christopher Swist, the infant's father, found his child in a bedroom with a cord wrapped around his neck, police said.

Jessica McCarty.
Jessica McCarty.

Palm Bay police officers entered the home and found McCarty's oldest son, 6-year-old Phillip, unresponsive in the corner of the living room, with a cord wrapped around his neck, as well.

Officers found 7-year-old Laci, in the same bedroom as the infant, soaking wet. Police said the cause of death was strangulation and drowning.  

Butcher knives were found in several areas of the home, along with blood in the living room and kitchen, officials said.

Philip and Laci were taken to nearby hospitals and were pronounced dead Friday night.

Jessica McCarty was treated for her injuries at Holmes Medical Center and later booked into the Brevard County Jail, where she waived her first appearance on Sunday morning.

Inside the home, police report finding notes McCarty had left, including one addressed to her family apologizing for "what she had to do."

She had also left a note for the infant's father, according to police, which urged him to "keep Christopher's name alive."

Valencya Wods said she's known the McCarty family for 12-years.

"It's way too close to home," Wods said. "I just don't know what to say. They were just a normal, family full of life."

Tears and hugs filled the room Monday night before everyone huddled close together, holding glow sticks in the air. After the public vigil at the church, there was a more private one in the front of the home. Dozens of red and yellow lanterns were let go into the

night sky.

McCarty's case is scheduled to go before a grand jury on April 8.

No information on funeral arrangements have been given.
Watch Local 6 and check back with ClickOrlando.com for more on this developing story.

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