A woman who had previously admitted blacking out from drug use decapitated her 2-year-old son and put the boy's head in her freezer before killing herself, just five months after having regained custody of the boy from the state's child welfare agency, authorities said Wednesday.
Chevonne Thomas killed her son and called 911 just after midnight Tuesday, then fatally stabbed herself while officers were outside, police said.
During the 911 call, she first accused her boyfriend of stabbing Zahree Thomas, but then said repeatedly "I did it, I did it," said Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Camden County prosecutor.
Laughlin described the call as "long, rambling, very incoherent."
Results of toxicology tests will be needed to determine if Thomas was high on drugs at the time.
Thomas, 33, had lost custody of Zahree in November 2010 after allegedly leaving the boy unattended in a car and admitting to police she had smoked marijuana laced with PCP and blacked out in a nearby park, authorities said.
She regained custody of the boy in April, Laughlin said.
The state's child welfare agency, the Division of Children and Families, had no immediate comment. It has been under the supervision of a federal judge and undergone a major overhaul since 2003 as a result of high-profile lapses in the oversight of children.
Officers responding to Chevonne Thomas' 911 call early Wednesday found Zahree's body on the first floor of the home, then discovered his head in the freezer.
Laughlin said the mother was upstairs still talking to the 911 operator when officers backed out of the home because they didn't know if she was armed.
The mother stabbed herself in the neck with a kitchen knife, apparently within five minutes of hanging up on dispatchers, he said. Police tried to get her to open a door but eventually had to break through a second-story window.
A medical examiner also found a chest stab wound and marks on the child's arms, Laughlin said.
In the 2010 case, Thomas was charged with child endangerment but the case was dropped because of a problem with a witness, Laughlin said.
During the investigation, Thomas admitted that she blacked out from smoking marijuana with PCP and couldn't remember where she left her child, according to the arrest warrant.
Phencyclidine, which as a street drug goes by names including PCP, was discontinued as an anesthetic in 1965 because patients "became agitated, delusional, and irrational," according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It has been known to cause hallucinations and paranoia.
Neighbor Melanie Troutman said she saw Thomas sitting with her boyfriend in front of their home about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, "clearly upset" and topless. But another neighbor disputed that she was topless.
She said the boyfriend led Thomas back into the home a short time later.
Authorities said the boyfriend left before the murder-suicide.
Thelma Moore, a former neighbor who came to the scene of the crime, said she had known Thomas for several years. She said the woman "just walked around and talked and cursed to herself."
Thomas had been seeing a behavioral health therapist and described her as being in "a world all to herself," Moore said.
The woman's landlord, who did not want to be identified, said Thomas had lived at the home for two months and was a perfect tenant, keeping the apartment tidy and clean. She said the woman received disability assistance and child support to pay her $950 monthly rent and had recently furnished the apartment.
Thomas left a message for the landlord Tuesday, asking her to fix a fence. The landlord thought she sounded like something was wrong.
Court records show Thomas faced dozens of judgments and liens filed in civil court in New Jersey dating back to 2002.