MILWAUKEE-- The search for a young Milwaukee mother and her two daughters ended tragically on Sunday when police discovered their bodies in a garage near 47th & Burleigh.
26-year-old Amarah Banks, 5-year-old Zaniya Ivery and 4-year-old Cameria Banks were missing for more than a week. Dozens gathered near the scene where they were discovered to cry and pray. Meanwhile, family says they are heartbroken.
"You got be a heartless monster to do this someone. My family is devastated. We're just beyond, I don't know what to even say," said Amarah's aunt, Shilloh Loper. "But I know I'll never get over this. Not ever in my life, I'll never get over this. I will never get over someone doing this to my niece," she said.
The three were last seen near Sherman Boulevard and Green Tree Road around 1 a.m. on Feb. 8. Police say family reported Amarah missing on Feb. 9. An AMBER Alert was issued Saturday and was canceled Sunday afternoon. Prior to Saturday, police said that the criteria to issue the alert had not been met.
"You have to also understand that foul play was not an initial piece of this investigation, it was a missing investigation that escalated," said Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales.
Investigators said that 25-year-old Arzel Ivery was taken into custody in Memphis. Family says he's the father of Zaniya and Zel, Amarah's one-year-old son who died of natural causes. Family said that Amarah and the girls disappeared hours after they held the funeral.
Online court records indicate that Ivery lives at the address police were called out to on Sunday.
Milwaukee leaders are calling domestic violence a serious issue that everyone must work to prevent. Chief Morales said that 20 percent of shootings and homicides in 2019 were intimate partner related.
"This is a systemic problem that's been going on for generations, and I think we all have to look back and see how we are going to curb domestic violence in our community," Chief Morales said.
"We will obviously re group not only with the police department but with our office of violence prevention, with others to see how we can do what we can to reduce horrible stories like this," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Reggie Moore, the director of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention issued this statement:
“We must get to a point where even the thought of violating a woman or child in our city would be intolerable and getting away with it impossible. I pray that we have finally reached that point."
The Office of Violence Prevention has resources available on its website. If you are someone you know is in need, call the Sojourner Family Peace Center at 414-933-2722.