The 30-year-old Dayton woman suspected of shooting her two young children in the head on Thursday was formally charged Friday with two counts of attempted aggravated murder and four counts of felonious assault, according to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.
Claudena Helton’s children, 8-year-old Khmorra and 6-year-old Kaiden, remained in critical condition at Dayton Children’s Hospital.
Helton has had a history of volatile relationships and showed signs of mental illness at the crime scene and afterwards, according to police and court records and officials.
Mental illness likely is a factor in the incident, said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl.
He said the assessment is based solely on the behavior and statements from the mother at the scene of the shooting and afterward.
Helton faced child abuse allegations in 2014. Montgomery County Children Services has an open and active case involving Helton, and officials said they were working with the family, though would not say more about the case.
“Montgomery County’s Children Services Division is truly disturbed by the unimaginable tragedy that occurred,” said Kevin Lavoie, spokesman for the Montgomery County Department of Job and Family Services. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this entire family, and very clearly the young children who were the victims of this violent act.”
Residents in the neighborhood Friday were trying to come to terms with the shootings.
“I just decided to pay my respects and hopefully they come through,” said Alisha Linton, who was placing flowers and toys near the home at 3821 Lori Sue Ave. “I have a 3-year-old, and it’s just heartbreaking to hear a parent, a mother, injure their child.”
Stephanie Fontenot, who lives nearby, said: “I don’t know what could have been going through her mind. I don’t know,” she said. “Only thing I can say to everybody is when somebody comes to you and talks to you, always have an open ear, because you never know what a person is going through.”
Lavoie urged citizens to contact authorities if children show signs of abuse or neglect or seem withdrawn.
He also encouraged citizens to contact children services if an adult seems to need parenting assistance or intervention. Citizens can report suspected abuse or neglect to 937-224-KIDS.
FIRST REPORT: Mother shoots 2 of her children, police say
All service providers, if they have concerns about the safety of a minor, are required to report it to the local public children services agency, said Jon Keeling, spokesman with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
When abuse or neglect concerns are reported, county agencies conduct assessments that determine if a caregiver needs to be evaluated for mental illness and whether that can affects ability to care for a child, Keeling said.
A search of court and police records revealed Claudena Helton was involved in a series of incidents that put her in contact with local police.
In July 2006, Trotwood police responded to a call of a drive-by shooting on Chaplen Drive and spoke with Sheila Helton, Claudena Helton’s mother.
Sheila Helton told police she heard three gunshots fired in front of her home and that the father of Claudena Helton’s child was likely responsible, a police report states. A bullet damaged a car belonging to Claudena Helton’s new boyfriend.
Claudena Helton told police her child’s father, whom she broke up with four months earlier, threatened to shoot her boyfriend’s car and her home.
Later, Claudena Helton was charged with domestic violence, but pleaded to lesser charges of disorderly conduct, according to court records. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail, with all 30 days suspended.
The following May, Trotwood police were called to the 100 block of Fieldstone Court on a report of an assault.
Claudena Helton told police her an ex-boyfriend became upset while at a party at her place and pushed her up against the wall and took her car keys, the report states.
Claudena Helton, who at the time worked as a home health aide, said her ex took her car without permission.
Authorities filed misdemeanor charges against the suspect for driving a vehicle without the owner’s consent and assault. Both charges were later dismissed.
Three years later, on May 23, 2010, Trotwood police responded to a call from a friend of Claudena Helton’s who was worried about her safety.
The friend received a text from Claudena Helton instructing her to call the police. Claudena Helton’s message said she feared her boyfriend would hurt her.
The day before, the live-in boyfriend, Stephen Fletcher, walked around the apartment complex waving what looked like a gun yelling, “if anyone called the police, he was going to shoot them,” according to the friend’s statement to police.
The friend called police.
Claudena Helton told police Fletcher had hit her in the face after earlier arguing at a family party. She told police he choked her until she nearly fainted.
“He pushed me in the room and continued to threaten me with his weapon,” Claudena Helton’s statement reads.
He took her to the hospital but threatened to kill her if she explained how she got her injuries, according to Claudena Helton’s statement to police. Claudena Helton said she texted her friend while her boyfriend was asleep, fearing he had a gun.
Fletcher was charged with misdemeanor counts of aggravated menacing and domestic violence. He was found guilty one one of the counts and sentenced to 123 days in jail.
Police found an unloaded BB gun in the home when it was searched. Claudena Helton said she thought it was real.
The report says that Claudena Helton was pregnant and Fletcher is presumed to be the father. Claudena Helton had at least two children at the time.