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Arrest made in death of mother, toddler

Tania Lopez and Gary Dymski, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

A North Bay Shore man has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the deaths of a woman and her 2-year-old son, Suffolk County police said Monday.

Jerry A. Lewis, 24, who apparently lived in the same apartment on South Cardinal Ct. in North Bay Shore with the two victims, was arrested Sunday in Laurel, Md., police said.
Lewis is being held in Laurel and will be extradited to Suffolk County on a later date, police said in a Monday news release.

The bodies of Shakeela Planter, 21, and Jaiden Planter, 2, were found about 5:15 p.m. Friday at their South Cardinal Court residence. Shakeela Planter was in the bedroom of the basement apartment and Jaiden was found in another room, but investigators would not say where, Det. Lt. Gerard V. Pelkofsky, commanding officer of Suffolk’s homicide squad, said Saturday.

Planter was unmarried, Pelkofsky said. Neighbors said a man lived in the apartment with her.

On Friday afternoon, her landlord went to the apartment to “check on her welfare” because she hadn’t been seen in a few days, Pelkofsky said.

“We’re not sure how many days it is,” he said. “It’s more than two.”

That’s when the landlord, who lives in the house upstairs with his wife, came upon Planter’s body, and police responding to the scene later found her son.

It wasn’t clear how long Planter, who worked in the dietitian’s department of Huntington Hospital, had been dead. Autopsies to determine the causes of death were expected to be done over the weekend, Pelkofsky said. “It’s obviously not from natural causes. We’re considering this a homicide investigation,” he said.

Planter, who leased the apartment, had lived there for about six months, Pelkofsky said.
Sunday one of Planter’s neighbors said she’d heard a woman screaming Saturday night when police and detectives were at the crime scene. “I heard a woman screaming like crazy,” said Carolina Zuluaga, 28, who lives behind the house Planter and her toddler occupied.

When told that a woman and her toddler were found dead in the house Friday, she said, “Oh my God. That is horrible and very scary. The street over here is very dark. It could’ve been anybody.” Though she didn’t know who was screaming Saturday night, she said she thought it might have been a relative or a friend of Planter.

Neighbors said they knew Planter slightly, if at all. “Nobody really associates with each other,” said Teddy Burgos, 60, who lives across the street. “If you happen to see anybody, it’s just by coincidence.”

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