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Milwaukee man told 2 kids mom wanted them 'in heaven' before strangling them, police say

Arzel J. Ivery was charged with three counts of homicide in the deaths of girlfriend Amarah J. Banks and her two daughters.
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The boyfriend of a Milwaukee woman found dead in a garage Sunday with her two young daughters was charged Tuesday with three counts of homicide in connection with their deaths.

Arzel J. Ivery, 25, was arrested over the weekend in Tennessee. He told police that he strangled Amarah J. Banks, 26, with his hands in the early morning hours of Feb. 8 in her Milwaukee apartment.

Image: Amarah Banks, a missing Milwaukee mother who has been found dead along with her two children in a Memphis, TN. garage.
Amarah Banks, a missing Milwaukee mother who has been found dead along with her two children in a Memphis, Tenn. garage.

He says he then kissed the daughter he had with Banks, 5-year-old Zaniya R. Ivery, and the daughter of Banks from another relationship, 4-year-old Camaria Banks, and told them that their mother wanted them in heaven and strangled them both, according to a criminal complaint.

He faces life in prison if convicted.

Ivery said he argued with Banks before he strangled the two children and their mother, just hours after they had buried their 21-month-old son, Arzel Ivery Jr., who died of bronchitis on Jan. 24.

After the funeral, Ivery said he went to work as a security guard, the complaint states. When he arrived at Banks' apartment after his shift, he told police she "was angry that he had gone to work and yelled at him that he did not care about the death of their son," the complaint states.

He said Banks picked up a knife, stated that she did not want to live anymore and swung at Ivery, cutting his wrist. He said he grabbed her and pushed her head into the wall twice causing her mouth to bleed. Ivery told police he then strangled Banks.

He said that Banks was not fighting him, "so he figured that she wanted to die" and was helping her, the complaint says.

Ivery said he did not want the children to grow up without a mother, so he went into their bedroom and took Zaniya out of the room. He said he kissed her and told her "daddy loves you."

According to the complaint, he "then told her that her mother wanted her in heaven with her" and strangled Zaniya.

Arzel Ivery.Shelby County, Tenn. Sheriff's Office / via AP

He went back into the children's bedroom, woke Camaria, told her the same things and strangled her, the complaint says.

He then carried all three bodies into the children's room and put them on air mattresses, according to the complaint. Ivery told police that he initially planned on dismembering the bodies, beginning with Banks, but decided against it.

Instead, he wrapped the bodies in the air mattresses and dragged them to his car, the complaint states. He drove around before disposing of the bodies in a garage at an apartment building where he used to live, the complaint says.

He lit the bodies on fire, but told authorities the fire did not get hot enough. He went to a gas station and obtained gasoline that he threw onto Banks and the two children causing the fire to get very hot.

Ivery said he then bought a .40 caliber gun and fled to Memphis, Tennessee, where his father lived. Ivery allegedly planned to start a new life there and told his father that he had killed Banks and the two young girls. Ivery's father contacted Memphis police on Saturday and told them his son had confessed to killing Banks and the two children in Milwaukee, according to the complaint.

Ivery's account contradicts what Banks' neighbors told police.

A neighbor who lived in an apartment next door to Banks saw her running through the parking lot to another apartment bleeding from the mouth. The neighbor said a man who drove a car that matched the description of Ivery's grabbed Banks and dragged her back into her apartment while Banks screamed, "No, no, please don't kill me," according to the complaint.

Banks and her daughters were found dead Sunday in the Milwaukee garage. They were reported missing by her family on Feb. 9. An Amber Alert was issued Saturday for the two children and their mother. During a news conference Sunday, Milwaukee police Chief Alfonso Morales defended the timing of the alert.

"You have to also understand that foul play was not an initial piece of this investigation, it was a missing investigation that escalated," Morales said.