NEW BERN, North Carolina — A frantic and bloodied mother whose three young sons were killed in a machete attack jumped from an upstairs window and ran across the street for help, according to neighbors.
A couple, who, like the suspect and victims, were Burmese refugees, was startled Tuesday night by pounding on their door by the mother. They said she was bleeding from a wound in her back and asking for help.
“We were scared,” said A Bu, who took in the mother and a surviving daughter while they waited for police to arrive.
The suspect, identified as 18-year-old Eh Lar Doh Htoo, attacked the family in their home Tuesday night. The brothers, ages 1, 5 and 12, were killed, police said.
New Bern Police Lt. Ronda Allen confirmed on Thursday that a machete was used in the attack. She said the father of the children was away from the house at work during the attack.
When officers arrived, he was still holding the weapon, New Bern Police Chief Toussaint Summers Jr. told The Associated Press.
Htoo also wounded the brothers’ mother and their 14-year-old sister. Police said they don’t know a motive for the attack and a language barrier hampered their investigation.
The sounds of screaming and dogs barking, followed by police sirens, awakened several neighbors who live in what they describe as a normally quiet neighborhood. The diverse neighborhood includes several families of Burmese refugees.
Htoo was charged with three counts of murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill. Police said they don’t know whether he has an attorney.
New Bern is a coastal town and home to about 1,900 Burmese refugees, who resettled in the area after fleeing persecution from the country once called Burma, now known as Myanmar.
“Anytime this happens in any community, any part of town, it’s surprising,” the police chief said.
The stabbings happened on a street of about 10 homes that face a railroad track and several dilapidated commercial buildings.
About 11pm Tuesday, officers were called there to a report of a person with a knife. They entered the home and found two dead boys. A third died at a hospital.
Police did not release the victims’ names.
Another neighbor said the suspect had scared his family by knocking on their door several times in the middle of the night.
“He’s crazy,” neighbor Ner Wah said Wednesday. “I told my wife: ‘Be careful. Don’t answer the door.’“
Wah said that like him, Htoo was a member of the Karen ethnic group, an oppressed people whose language has been banned back home.
Htoo once came to Wah’s house during the day to ask him to help translate documents, but Wah said they weren’t friends.
“We felt very scared of him,” Wah said.
Htoo’s first court appearance was scheduled for Friday.