TROY, N.Y. — An additional first-degree murder charge was filed Thursday against one of two men accused of killing two women and two children in a basement apartment.

Justin Mann and James White initially were charged Saturday with first- and second-degree murder in the Dec. 21 slayings of Shanta Myers; her lover, Brandi Mells; and Myers’ children, ages 5 and 11. The men, who appeared in court Thursday, had previously pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors opted not to proceed Thursday with a preliminary hearing, which meant the defendants had the right to be released from jail without further action. Instead, authorities filed a new first-degree murder charge against White and sent Mann back to jail under a parole hold.

Mann has served time for a 2013 armed robbery in Queens, and White served prison time for manslaughter in the 1999 stabbing death of a Bronx man.

The bodies were found the day after Christmas in Troy, north of Albany. Police haven’t disclosed a motive or said how the victims were killed. No further details were released Thursday.

Defense attorney Greg Cholakis, representing White, told Troy City Court Judge Christopher Maier that he wanted a preliminary hearing to go on as scheduled.

“We’re ready to move at this stage,” Cholakis told reporters outside the courtroom. “We’ve not seen one stitch of evidence. That’s what a preliminary hearing is for.”

Attorney Joseph Ahearn, representing Mann, told reporters the original charges against both men still stand but District Attorney Joel Abelove brought a new charge against White as a way to buy time while he tries to get a grand jury indictment.

“In 20 years, I’ve never seen a DA come in and file a new felony complaint because they couldn’t move forward,” Ahearn said.

Abelove declined to speak to reporters.

A memorial service for Myers and her two children is scheduled for Saturday in the Troy Middle School auditorium. Funeral arrangements for Mells haven’t been announced.

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MARY ESCH
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