A young child was rescued from her house by Florida deputies early Monday morning, after calling 911 and telling the dispatcher her parents had been shot by an attacker.
"My mommy and daddy … there is blood coming out of my dad's mouth and he fell off the bed," the girl said on the 911 tape.
"I don't know quite how to characterize what you hear in that 5-year-old's voice," Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson told "Good Morning America." "Her composure is extraordinary given what she had just seen. She was an amazing little girl. The information she gave us and the manner she gave it to us, we wish we could get that out of adults."
The girl told the operator her age and that she had a dog named Liza. The dispatcher calmly spoke to her while sending authorities to her home. Her mother, Julie Hernlen, 31, was dead when they arrived, and her father, Aeneas Hernlen, 29, was taken to the hospital and died the next day.
The attacker, David Edward Johnson, 33, believed the couple were responsible for his arrest in November on charges of growing marijuana and possession of steroids, according to the sheriff's office. Officials said the couple were not involved in his arrest, but had requested an injunction against their would-be attacker in January.
Johnson committed suicide at his home later Monday.
'Amazing Little Girl'
The attack occurred in the middle of the night with the sound of a gunshot waking the young girl.
The sheriff praised the dispatcher, who is also a mother, for remaining focused while listening to a child in a dangerous situation. The dispatcher kept the girl on the phone until the authorities arrived at her house and is heard asking her questions in a portion of the tape.
CHILD: I'm 5 years old and I have a dog in a house.
OPERATOR: OK baby, OK. Let me get someone right over to you.
OPERATOR: OK, and what made you wake up tonight?
CHILD: There was, I think I heard a gunshot.
OPERATOR: Who has a gun in the house?
CHILD: I don't see a gun but I'm scared.
OPERATOR: Oh sweetheart! I will not let anything happen to you.
Anticipating a Threat?
Police said the Hernlens were apparently aware that David Edward Johnson posed a threat to their safety.
Julie Hernlen was preparing to graduate from Dayton Beach Community College this spring and then pursue a law degree, according to reports in The Daytona Beach News-Journal. She spoke to an instructor and expressed concerns that Johnson was ruining her life, the newspaper reported.
In early January, the couple was denied an injunction against Johnson.
In an interview with "Good Morning America" Circuit Judge Richard Graham said he was "very upset" when he was informed about the slayings. The judge recalled the request for the injunction arriving by fax with very little information.
"Had I had more information, I think I would have granted it," said Graham.
But the sheriff explained that the injunction may not have prevented the attack. "I don't really believe it would have in a case like this," said Johnson.
"An injunction is fine for someone who is willing to accept the rules. This individual here was set on taking action," he said. "The only way you could have prevented it would be to put him in jail and keep him in jail. There was nothing there to do that. When someone is bound and determined they are going to do a criminal act, it is hard to stop it."
The girl was not harmed physically and is staying with relatives. Johnson described her as doing OK for now.
"At 5 years old, I don't think they really understand death yet," said Johnson. "We are more concerned about the long-term well-being of the little girl. She is a smart little girl."