Three young sisters who disappeared from their Texas home last year before searchers found their bodies in a nearby pond had not drowned, but were strangled to death before being dumped in the water, according to local authorities—and the children’s mom says she “suspected foul play from the jump.”
“Fuck everyone else’s feelings, I want answers,” Shommaonique Oliver told The Daily Beast in her first interview.
When the remains of Zi’Ariel Oliver, 9, Amiyah Hughes, 8, and Temari Oliver, 5, were found on July 30, 2022, the circumstances surrounding the tragic discovery were at first unclear.
“That is unknown, whether they were swimmers or not,” Lieutenant Game Warden Jason Jones told Texarkana NBC affiliate TKAL at the time. “None of them had life jackets on, so I don’t know how strong of swimmers they were or if [they] were swimmers at all.”
On Friday, Cass County District Attorney Courtney Shelton announced that the girls had “lacerations” on their faces and died by strangulation, and were in fact the victims of a homicide. Oliver’s 31-year-old cousin was babysitting the kids and their three siblings, who were unharmed, at the time while Oliver was at work.
Oliver, 28, got a call from the cousin, who was using a neighbor’s phone, at around 9 p.m. on July 29, she told The Daily Beast. He told her simply “that my kids were missing,” Oliver recalled.
“He didn’t say how many, he just said ‘missing,’” Oliver said on Sunday. “So as I’m driving home, I’m calling 911—something that he should have done from the jump, and then call me.”
Deputies from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, wardens from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and fire rescue crews from Cass County Emergency Services District No. 2 mounted a search for the girls. They discovered a pair of shoes at the edge of a pond roughly 200 yards away from Oliver’s home, according to Cass County Sheriff Larry Rowe. (“My kids would never go into a field barefooted,” Oliver told The Daily Beast.) A dive team from neighboring Bowie County was brought in, and the children’s bodies were recovered in the early morning of July 30.
Now, Oliver’s cousin, who did not answer phone calls or respond to email requests for comment, is being prevented from speaking to investigators by his mother—Oliver’s aunt—according to Oliver.
“Why won’t [she] let him talk to the police, or take him down to the police?” Oliver said. “…All I want is justice for my babies.”
The cousin, for his part, has a relatively minor criminal history that includes misdemeanor weapons, narcotics, and criminal mischief arrests.
Things are difficult for Oliver in the aftermath of her loss, though she said she is “holding okay, I guess.”
Not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about Zi’Ariel, Amiyah, and Temari, she continued, saying, “All I ever tried to do was work and be a good mother for my six kids.”
Now, Oliver said, she’s barely eking out a living as she continues to mourn. She’s bringing in some money at the moment, designing and selling t-shirts.
At the same time, since her story hit the national news, Oliver claims she has been regularly harassed by total strangers.
“They need to put all that energy into finding out what happen[ed] to my babies, and not trying to come at me about my kids.”
People call Oliver from fake numbers and message her on Facebook from burner accounts, calling her a “deadbeat mom,” saying she “got what [she] deserves,” and that her kids are “better off” dead, she said.
“This world don’t give a damn about nobody but they self,” Oliver shot back on Sunday. “They need to put all that energy into finding out what happen[ed] to my babies, and not trying to come at me about my kids.”
Oliver is trying to raise money to make ends meet, via GoFundMe, which has generated a little over $18,000 to date.
Shelton, the Cass County DA, said on Friday that investigators have interviewed numerous witnesses, and that DNA testing continues. No suspects have been named, and no possible motive for the alleged triple homicide has been revealed.
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