Woman pleads not guilty in deaths of her 3 kids in Arizona

Rachel Henry (Photo Courtesy: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)

A woman has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in the suffocation deaths of her three young children in Phoenix.

Rachel Henry entered the plea on Tuesday on the charges stemming from the Jan. 21 deaths of 3-year-old Zane Henry, 23-month-old Miraya Henry and 7-month-old Catalaya Rios.

Henry identified herself by name and provide her birthday when asked in court, but said nothing else during her brief arraignment hearing.

Prosecutors have said that Henry has acknowledged having a history of methamphetamine addiction and that her children had previously been removed from their home by child-welfare authorities in Oklahoma because of issues related to her drug problem.

In court documents, investigators say Henry admitted during an interview to smothering each of the victims, starting with the one-year-old girl. Investigators also allege the one-year-old kicked as Henry smothered her, while the three-year-old boy yelled "no" at Henry to try to get her to stop. Henry later chased the three-year-old boy, but was interrupted when two people returned to the home.

Eventually, police say Henry took the three-year-old to a back bedroom to change his underpants, during which she placed the boy on the bedroom floor, straddled him with one of her legs, and placed her hand over his nose and mouth.

According to documents, Henry reportedly described singing to the boy as he scratched her chest and pinched her while she placed her hand over his nose and mouth. Henry also used her weight on top of the three-year-old, straddling him, in order to smother him to death.

As for the seven-month-old, investigators claim Henry fed her until she fell asleep, and sang her a song as she placed her hand over her face and impeded her breathing. Henry sang to the seven-month-old until she became unconscious and died. Henry then placed all three children in a position on the living room couch as if they were taking a nap.


Zane Henry, Catalaya Rios, Miraya Henry (Pearl Rebolledo Velazco)

Henry’s family moved from Oklahoma to Phoenix in June. The children's father reportedly attended the children's funeral in Oklahoma, and the children's aunt has posted an update on social media, saying "the babies were laid to rest in Paden Cemetery, next to my Uncle Brad. Everything was beautiful, and all three of them were placed together in a vault in the same lot."

The Arizona Department of Child Safety said it didn’t have any earlier contacts or abuse reports involving the family.

No motive for the killings has emerged.

The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.