Just days after Jarmecca "Nikki" Whitehead was killed, many of her friends had already fingered a suspect, or suspects.
Their suspicions were confirmed Friday when the Conyers beautician's twin daughters, Tasmiyah and Jasmiyah, were arrested and charged with murder in their mother's Jan. 14 death. Whitehead was found in a pool of blood, beaten and stabbed repeatedly. The twins will be tried as adults.
"I never thought they were capable of murder before she died," said Whitehead's friend and former boss, Michelle Temple. "Who would think that? But after she was murdered, I knew it was them."
By all accounts, the 16-year-old girls had become difficult for their mother to handle. Once honor students and Girl Scouts, "Tas" and "Jas," as they were known, continually pushed boundaries, breaking rules and acting out whenever discipline was imposed.
"The girls wanted to do what they wanted to do," said Yucca Harris, Whitehead's best friend.
Tas and Jas had moved back home just eight days before their mother's death. They had been living with their elderly great-grandmother for about a year and a half following an incident in which they physically assaulted Whitehead, requiring police intervention, said Petrina Sims, owner of Simply Unique, a salon where Whitehead worked until her death.
Their great-grandmother had trouble reining the girls in, Whitehead's friends say.
"She's an 80-year-old woman," Harris said of Whitehead's grandmother. "[Tas and Jas] could get away with just about anything."
Temple told the AJC that the girls stole $200 from her and they'd also stolen money from their great-grandmother.
"The [great-grandmother] eventually had to get a dead-bolt for her bedroom," Temple said.
But friends say Whitehead, who raised the girls alone, was determined to start over with her daughters.
"The last night I saw her, she told me she was going to fight for those girls," said Harris, who was invited to a welcome home dinner Whitehead had for Tas and Jas five days before her death.
"They agreed to start over, to forgive and forget," Harris told the AJC. Harris said she had a long conversation with her friend's daughters that night, encouraging them to call her whenever they needed to talk.
"I thought I got through to them," Harris said.
Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson said evidence processed in the GBI crime lab links the girls to their mother's slaying. E ven Jasmiyah's attorney, Rockdale public defender Owen Humphries, acknowledged, "I've got my work cut out for me."
Both girls have denied killing their mother, Humphries said. A grand jury is expected to hear their case June 7.
The twins had claimed they came home from school and discovered their mother's body. One of them flagged down a Rockdale County Sheriff's deputy who was in the neighborhood serving a warrant on an unrelated matter.
With no sign of forced entry, police suspected Whitehead knew her killer.
"There was a point soon after the murder when a lot of people became suspicious of the two girls," Chief Wilson told the AJC.
The girls have been separated "to keep them from comparing notes," Humphries said. One is in the Rockdale Youth Detention Center while the other was sent to Gwinnett's YDC. They're being held without bond.
Humphries told the AJC he's working to secure legal representation for Tasmiyah.
"They were just defiant," salon owner Sims said of the twins. "They had grown so wild in just a couple of years, like they were two different people. They weren't those sweet little girls anymore."
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