April 22nd, 2024

Suspect charged with murder in a series of stabbings in a northern Illinois city

By Kathleen Foody, Rick Callahan And Corey Williams, The Associated Press on March 28, 2024.

Police tape surrounds many homes as police investigate a mass stabbing along the 2300 block of Holmes Street on March 27, 2024, in Rockford, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) – A 22-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in a stabbing rampage that killed 4 people in a northern Illinois city, authorities said Thursday.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley said during a news conference that Christian Soto will be in court Thursday afternoon to hear the charges and for a judge to determine if he will remain in jail pending trial.

Hanley said Soto is also charged with attempted murder and home invasion with a dangerous weapon following the attacks in Rockford Wednesday that left seven people injured.

At least one person remained hospitalized Thursday but was in stable condition, Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd said during the news conference.

A 15-year-old girl, a 63-year-old woman, a 49-year-old man and a 22-year-old man were killed. Police said three of them died where they were attacked and a fourth died at a hospital. Authorities have not released the victims’ names, but the United States Postal Inspection Service, a division of the United States Postal Service, confirmed Thursday that a letter carrier was among the dead.

“Postal inspectors are working with the Rockford Police Department in this investigation,” agency spokesperson Michael Martel said in an email.

Authorities have released little information about the suspect, who was arrested Wednesday by a Winnebago County sheriff’s deputy responding to a reported home invasion. A woman who identified herself as the suspect’s sister declined to comment to The Associated Press.

Resident Vanessa Hy, told WREX-TV in Rockford that she witnessed the arrest.

“All of the sudden, we heard police run up on both sides of the house screaming, “˜Stop! Get down!'” Hy told the TV station. “Then they ran into the backyard and after a few minutes we saw them bringing the suspect down the driveway in handcuffs and he was very bloody.”

Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd said the suspect likely acted alone.

“We don’t believe there’s any other suspects that are on the run or at large at this particular time,” Redd said Wednesday. “Right now, we don’t have a clear motive as to what caused this individual to commit such a heinous crime.”

She said residents were being asked to review home surveillance footage for anything related to the attacks.

Redd said Rockford police received a medical call at 1:14 p.m. Wednesday followed by additional calls for police and paramedics. She said not all of the victims found at multiple addresses in the city had stab wounds and none was shot.

Rockford resident Cassandra Hernandez said her friend was among the victims, and that she mourns the loss of the mail carrier who neighbors believe was hit by a vehicle and stabbed.

“You never expect this here,” Hernandez told the Rockford Register Star. “Just to think that it happened here, and we have such great neighbors and the mailman.”

Three people injured in the attacks were being treated at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, where one was in critical condition and the two others were in fair condition, hospital spokesperson Paul Arco said Thursday.

The Rockford Police Department and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office have not responded to messages left Thursday seeking updates on the surviving victims’ conditions.

Sheriff Gary Caruana said Wednesday that the suspect was with a woman when he was arrested, and that the suspect had attacked her and a bystander.

“The young lady ran from him,” Caruana said. “She got some stab wounds in her hands and her face. She is in serious condition. One of the good Samaritans stopped to help her out. He did get some stab wounds. He is being checked out.”

Rockford, home to about 150,000 people, is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Chicago. Its economy was decimated by industrial change in the 1980s and now largely depends on manufacturing and healthcare.

Some residents bristle at the mention of a 2013 Forbes article classifying it as one of the country’s “most miserable cities,” that pointedly noted Rockford’s double-digit unemployment rate. Forbes and other media outlets have been more complimentary in recent years, noting the city’s affordable cost of living and efforts to support local restaurants and entertainment venues.

But Rockford’s police force, like many across the U.S., has reported increases in violent crime since the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s violent crimes totals did drop by about 19%, according to the department’s annual report, but there were 20 murders compared to 15 in 2022.

The stabbings Wednesday came just days after a teenage employee was stabbed and killed inside a Walmart in the city.

The city of Rockford planned to hold a vigil for the victims Thursday afternoon hosted by local faith leaders.

___

Callahan reported from Indianapolis and Williams reported from Detroit. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed from New York.

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