A homeless woman living in a Vermont shelter has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder after she allegedly slaughtered the shelter's coordinator with an axe.
On Monday, 38-year-old Zaaina Asra Zakirrah Mahvish-Jammeh allegedly lured 36-year-old Leah Rosin-Pritchard to the living room of a homeless shelter in Battleboro, Vermont, along the eastern border of the state, just across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire.
Rosin-Pritchard, who moved to Vermont from Rhode Island because of her desire to help others, initially hesitated to meet with Mahvish-Jammeh there, telling a colleague that Mahvish-Jammeh's request for a meeting was "kind of strange," according to a report from Battleboro police. However, she went to the living room anyway. Almost immediately, Mahvish-Jammeh reportedly drew an axe she had recently purchased from a hardware store and began attacking Rosin-Pritchard with it.
Screams brought other staff and residents to the room, where they begged the suspect to stop. One resident of the shelter who witnessed the brutal slaying claimed it has traumatized him.
"It was a f***ing brutal, savage f***ing murder," said the 66-year-old man who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I haven’t been able to sleep. Because every time I close my eyes, I see that s***."
Police and first responders pronounced Rosin-Pritchard dead at the scene. She had suffered "significant injuries" to her face, neck, and torso. The unnamed witness said when he first arrived in the living room, he couldn't even recognize the victim. "That’s how badly smashed the face was," he said.
Police quickly located Mahvish-Jammeh in the building, where they say she was wiping blood off of her hands with a paper towel. "After the murder, she takes off the overalls and is wearing a bunny ear headband, blue socks, grey sweatpants and black slipper style footwear, but continued to carry the axe around the first floor," the police report said. She was arrested without incident, and most of the brutal murder was captured on surveillance video.
Mahvish-Jammeh was originally charged with second-degree murder but has since had that charge elevated to first-degree murder. In her court appearance, the suspect appeared pregnant, although no outlets have reported on a possible pregnancy. A judge ordered the defendant to be given a mental health evaluation to determine whether she has the capacity to stand trial.
The 66-year-old witness indicated that Mahvish-Jammeh had previously exhibited signs of mental illness. "I told them two months ago this was going to happen, and they didn’t listen," he claimed. "It was just a matter of time before she grabbed a butcher knife. The only thing I was wrong about was her choice of weapon. It should have never happened, and now a good person is dead."
Groundworks Collaborative, which owns the homeless shelter, issued a statement about Rosin-Pritchard's death: "Leah Rosin-Pritchard is irreplaceable. She was a wonderfully strong, positive, beautiful and compassionate person who gave generously of her spirit and skills in support of all Morningside House residents and her professional colleagues. There are no words to express the depth of loss felt by her Groundworks teammates, and our hearts go out to her family and friends."
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