NEW BERN, N.C. (AP) — A Burmese immigrant accused of stabbing three young brothers to death had scared a different neighborhood 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.'”
The suspect, identified as 18-year-old Eh Lar Doh Htoo, attacked a Burmese family in their home Tuesday night with a knife, killing the brothers — ages 1, 5 and 12, police said. When officers arrived, he was still holding the knife, 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.
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 in the former country of Burma, which is 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 row-like homes that face a railroad track and several dilapidated commercial buildings.
About 11 p.m. 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.
The mother jumped out the second-floor window of her home after she was attacked, according to neighbor A Lay, who was awakened when she knocked on his door. Her back was bloody.
“She said she needed help and she needed the police,” said A Lay’s wife, A Bu.
Police did not release the victims’ names.
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.
Susan Husson, executive director of the Interfaith Refugee Ministry in New Bern, said the victims’ family and the suspect’s family likely came through her office before settling in New Bern, but she didn’t know them personally.
She said the first Burmese refugee came to New Bern around 1999.
“It’s just really hard right now,” she said. “It’s been really horrific.”
A neighbor who lives about five houses away said he heard sirens late Tuesday night and decided to stay inside.
“We were scared. We just locked the door,” said 23-year-old Yyoch Rmah, who moved to the U.S. from Vietnam in 2006.
He said there were a lot of Burmese refugees in the neighborhood, and people from other countries.
Htoo’s first court appearance was scheduled for Friday.