Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret LaBianca sentenced Retta Cruse, 36, to two life sentences for the drug-overdose death of her daughters, Aleyah McIntyre, 9, and Royal McIntyre, 4.
Though she initially denied any knowledge of the homicide, Cruse later pleaded guilty and was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder.
“This office is committed to ensuring justice for the most vulnerable in society and the killing of two young children at the hands of their mother is an unspeakable act,” stated Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, according to reports.
In September 2021, officers responded to a home along 13th street and Mountain View, where they found the bodies of the two girls on a bed cuddled with each other. Next, they found Cruse barricaded in another room with multiple stab wounds. Later, authorities discovered evidence of an empty bottle of prescription medication, indicating the defendant had caused her daughters to overdose on Acetaminophen and oxycodone.
Cruse was then transported to the hospital for medical treatment.
According to prosecutors, Cruse had planned a murder-suicide after a New Jersey judge had ordered Aleyah to be returned to her father, Kevin Maddox. A suicide note signed by the defendant corroborated the evidence at the crime scene.
As a result, she told investigators she and her husband, Michael Coleman, had decided to commit a murder-suicide to avoid a custody battle and keep the family together. However, Coleman backed out of the plan but urged his wife to continue. Coleman told Cruse he would communicate with her and the kids after death with a spirit box.
Cruse’s other two children, Icyss McIntyre, 20, and Elijah Simmons, 16, who attended her sentencing, described having difficulties processing the horrific crime committed by their mother.
“My mom really, really loved us. She put us before anything, and I’m still trying to process everything now,” said McIntyre to the judge, reported.
So far, prosecutors have not brought any charges against Coleman regarding his role in the incident.
LaBianca ordered the defendant to serve both life sentences consecutively.