- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - The Latest on the fatal stabbings of four young children in Tennessee (all times local):

7:15 p.m.

The grandmother of a 7-year-old boy who authorities say escaped a knife attack by his mother says the woman was “a sweet, young lady” and she does not understand what could have led her to attack her children.

Sonya Clayton and about 30 other people attended a candlelight prayer vigil for four children who sheriff’s officials say were fatally stabbed by their mother in an apartment in unincorporated Shelby County on Friday.

Authorities said Saturday that 29-year-old Shanynthia Gardner of Memphis has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the deaths of her three daughters and one son, all of whom were younger than 5 years old and share the last name of their father, Martin Gardner.

Authorities say 7-year-old Dallen Clayton escaped the attack. He is Shanynthia Gardner’s son from a previous marriage to Detrail Clayton, Sonya Clayton said.

Sonya Clayton said she has not seen her former daughter-in-law for a few years. Clayton said she is shocked that Shanynthia Gardner could do what authorities say she did.

Sonya Clayton said her son is not doing well, and he wants to see his son soon. Sheriff’s officials say the boy has been under protective supervision.

2:35 p.m.

Court documents say a Tennessee mother killed four of her children by cutting their throats and sheriff’s deputies found a large butcher knife with what appeared to be blood on it in an apartment were the killings took place.

An affidavit filed in Shelby County court by a sheriff’s detective Saturday said 29-year-old Shanynthia Gardner of Memphis has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the deaths of her four children on Friday in a gated neighborhood.

The victims were a 4-year-old boy; a 3-year-old girl; a 2-year-old girl; and a 6-month-old girl. A 7-year-old boy escaped the attack. All five children were Gardner’s.

The affidavit also says Gardner spoke by phone to her husband, Martin Gardner, and acknowledged she killed her children. Attempts to reach him or relatives of the Gardners have been unsuccessful.

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10:30 a.m.

Authorities in Tennessee say the mother of four children found fatally stabbed has been charged with first-degree murder.

Shanynthia Gardner of Memphis faces four counts of first degree murder while committing aggravated child neglect; four counts of first degree murder while committing aggravated child abuse; four counts of aggravated child neglect or endangerment; and four counts of aggravated child abuse.

Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham says the victims were a 4-year-old boy; a 3-year-old girl; a 2-year-old girl; and a 6-month-old girl.

A 7-year-old boy escaped the attack. All five children were Gardner’s.

Deputies were called to an apartment complex in unincorporated Shelby County shortly before 1 p.m. Friday. They took Gardner into custody after finding the children’s bodies.

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8:35 a.m.

A news report says that the mother of four children who authorities say were fatally stabbed in a suburban Memphis apartment complex has been charged in their deaths.

Citing a charging document, The Commercial Appeal reports (http://bit.ly/29bCLhx ) that the woman has been charged with four counts of first degree murder associated with aggravated child abuse, four counts of first degree murder in association with aggravated child neglect, and four counts each of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect or endangerment.

The bodies of the four children were found Friday. The mother was taken into custody, and was questioned Friday night.

Officials have not released the ages of the children, but Shelby County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Earle Farrell said deputies responding to the scene called them “babies.”

Authorities are planning a news conference later Saturday morning to update the public.

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The mother of four young children who were stabbed to death in a gated apartment complex in Tennessee is being held for questioning, but authorities have not charged her with a crime.

The deaths of the children on Friday saddened and dismayed neighbors and county officials, as authorities try to piece together what happened in the apartment located near a verdant golf course in a typically quiet neighborhood in suburban Memphis.

Deputies were called to the complex in unincorporated Shelby County shortly before 1 p.m. Friday. Officials have not released the ages of the children, but sheriff’s office spokesman Earle Farrell said deputies responding to the scene called them “babies.”

Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham called the killings an “egregious act of evil,” though he did not specifically allege that the mother had stabbed the children.

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