'How can somebody do that?' Family devastated after mother, daughters found dead

MILWAUKEE -- The aunt and sister of Amarah "Jerica" Banks, 26, the Milwaukee mother found dead with her 4- and 5-year-old daughters in a garage near 47th Street and Burleigh Street spoke with FOX6 News at the scene Sunday, Feb. 16 -- devastated by this tragedy.

"You have to be a heartless monster to do something like this to someone," said Shilloh Loper, Banks' aunt. "I don't know what to even say, but I know I'll never get over this. Not ever in my life will I get over this. I will never get over someone doing this to my niece."

An Amber Alert was issued Saturday, Feb. 15 for Camaria Banks, 4, and Zaniya Ivery, 5, after Banks was reported missing to MPD by family on Feb. 9. They were reported to have been last seen around 1 a.m. on Feb. 8, after a Feb. 7 funeral for Jerica's 1-year-old son, Arzel, who family said died of natural causes.

The Amber Alert said the three were last believed to be in the company of Arzel Ivery, 25, of Milwaukee, and were "missing under suspicious circumstances." The alert said Ivery was in custody.

Arzel Ivery

Meanwhile, on Saturday, MPD was notified by police in Memphis, Tennessee that they had contact with Ivery -- Banks' boyfriend. FOX6's sister station in Memphis WHBQ reported Ivery was arrested in Tennessee after a family member stated Ivery came home talking about an incident in Milwaukee.  MPD detectives went to Tennessee and spoke to Ivery. Chief Morales said Ivery provided information that brought investigators to the garage at Ivery's apartment building near 47th and Burleigh Sunday, where they discovered the three bodies.

"All of them special to the family," said Loper. "Four and five. They knew nothing. How can somebody just do that to somebody, and then, the little kids, too. They haven't even lived their lives."

Chief Morales said this was a case of domestic violence.

"She trusted that boy," said Loper. "He was the father of her son and her daughter. A person that is in your life, you need to try to find out about them -- your lover, friend, whatever can be your worst enemy."

Amarah Banks, Zaniya Ivery, Camaria Banks

Meka Smith, Jerica's sister, said they were close, and Banks' daughters were "mama's girls."

"It's heartbreaking," said Smith. "I don't even know what to do. I just wish she was here. Why'd he have to do that to them? She didn't deserve this. She really didn't. How can you be so evil?"

Valeria Spinner-Banks

FOX6 spoke with Jerica's mother, Valeria Spinner-Banks, the grandmother of the children, on Saturday. Worried, Spinner-Banks said she never imagined her daughter and grandchildren would be pictured on a missing poster.

"We feel like this is a bad dream," said Spinner-Banks on Saturday. "I'm praying and hoping that she is all right and the kids are all right."

Spinner-Banks said the last time she saw the three was Feb. 7, after 1-year-old Arzel's funeral. Jerica was dropped off at home with the kids -- and disappeared.

"Her life revolves around her family and her children," Spinner-Banks said. "It's just not like her, so I know something is wrong."

Dan Quakklaar, a Milwaukee pastor, said this tragedy is "something we have seen in our community too often." Neighbors gathered for a prayer service amid the investigation Sunday.

Sunday's disturbing discovery came just two days after Savannah Bailey, a Milwaukee mother of two, was set on fire "by her live-in boyfriend," Chief Morales said. It happened Friday morning, Feb. 14 near 8th Street and Cherry Street. Bailey suffered life-threatening injuries.

Chief Morales noted domestic violence is an issue in Milwaukee -- 20% of Milwaukee's homicides and non-fatal shootings in 2019 DV related.

"I was overcome with grief," said Quakklaar. "I just feel like the community does need to come together. Two young children and a young mother to be slain like that -- it's not right. God saw those precious souls coming to him. We see them leaving. The pain won't go away, but we can weep together."

Chief Morales said Sunday a criminal complaint was drafted against Ivery to allow police to bring Ivery into custody in Memphis.

Online court records in Wisconsin showed a felony charge of aggravated battery was issued Saturday against Ivery out of Milwaukee County, with an arrest warrant issued. Charges could be upgraded as soon as Monday, with autopsies scheduled.

Ivery was scheduled to appear in court in Memphis, Tennessee Monday morning, Feb. 17.