Mother Accused Of Murdering Her Children 5/10/03

A startling family tragedy in Chapel Hill this weekend has left friends and family completely stunned.

Responding to a 911 call, the Smith County Sheriff's Department found two children dead, apparently bludgeoned to death by their own mother.

"We received our first phone call this morning at one o'clock," Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith said, "And to quote what the woman said on the phone is 'I've killed my boys.'"

A third child, a toddler, is in critical condition. All three children were apparently beaten with rocks while their father was asleep inside the home. The murders took place after midnight Saturday morning on Arizona street in Chapel Hill.

According to an affidavit, Deanna Laney called 911. When deputies arrived, they found her fourteen month-old son Aaron James Laney in his crib, lying in a pool of blood with massive head trauma. The father, Keith Laney, apparently was asleep in the home when deputies entered the house.

After going outside, deputies found Deanna Laney behind her house, wearing her pajamas and talking on the phone. When deputies questioned her, she told them "I had to," and told them where the bodies of her two older sons were.

Deputies found them in a shadowy corner of the yard in their underwear. Both boys, eight year-old Joshua and six year-old Luke, were dead from massive head trauma. Friends and family said there was no warning anything like this could ever happen.

Family cousin Melanie Cave said, "They just seemed like the sweetest family. It seemed like they were always doing good and I'm just shocked by the whole thing."

Neighbors referred to the family as quiet, and very religious. The family homeschooled, and attended First Assembly of God Church in Tyler. While investigators try to make sense of it, the rest of the Laney's neighborhood was shocked to find out what happened.

"They looked pretty nice, just like everyone else around here. Didn't see anything suspicious or anything," says the Laney's neighbor, Shawn Makinson.

"If a mother can do that to her own kids, you don't know who could drive up. It juts scares me," says another neighbor, Melodie Blasingame.

While a motive remains unclear, Sheriff Smith says no matter what else comes out, this story may never be completely understood.

"Nothing makes sense killing children. Nothing. Especially a fourteen month-old, assaulting it, attempting to kill it. An eight year old and six year old, that just doesn't make any sense at all," says Smith.

Police think the father was asleep in the house when the murders happened, and he is not a suspect at this time. The father has gone to Dallas to be with his youngest son, currently in the hospital in critical condition.

Deanna Laney is in custody, arrested Saturday morning and charged with capital murder of her two oldest sons, and aggravated assault of her youngest. Bond was set at a total of $2.1 million dollars.

Reid Kerr ( reporting.