What to know about the deadly Rockford, Illinois, stabbing spree

A 22-year-old suspect was arrested in the incident that left four people dead.

March 30, 2024, 11:28 AM

A 22-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a stabbing rampage Wednesday afternoon in Rockford, Illinois, that left four people dead in 20 minutes, including a U.S. postal worker and a teenage girl, and seven other victims injured, police said.

Following his arrest in the frenzied attack, the suspect, Christian Soto, waived his Miranda rights to remain silent and told investigators he was high on marijuana he claimed was given to him by one of the slaying victims that he believed was laced with a strong narcotic, Winnebago County State's Attorney J. Hanley said at a news conference Thursday.

But Hanley said Soto was conscious throughout the entire rampage and recalled details of each attack in his interview with investigators.

"I don't have a real answer for that," Hanley said of the possible motive. "And I'm not sure we will."

Soto faces four counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder, as well as two counts of home invasion with a dangerous weapon, Hanley said. Soto is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon.

Holding back tears, an emotional Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara identified those killed in the attacks: 15-year-old Jenna Newcomb, 49-year-old Jay Larson and 63-year-old Romona Schubach and her 23-year-old son, Jacob Schubach.

"Jenna's mom wants the community to know that Jenna died saving her sister and her friend, and protecting them from further harm," McNamara said.

Hanley said Newcomb was beaten to death with an aluminum softball bat after warning her sister and their friend that a man had broken into their home.

Officials said one of the seven survivors of the attack remained in critical condition Thursday, with four others in serious condition.

The U.S. Postal Service identified 49-year-old letter carrier Jay Larson as one of the four people killed in a stabbing rampage that occurred on March 27, 2024, in Rockford, Illinois.
Lawrence Steward

Ruth Mendonca, the inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago, identified Larson as the mail carrier who was killed in the attacks.

"A 25-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, letter carrier Jay Larson was taken from his family and from this community yesterday," Mendonca said at the news conference. "This tragedy occurred while Jay was doing his job like many of us were at that exact time. Jay was doing what he loved, serving his community delivering mail to customers whom he has served for 25 years."

Lawrence Steward, president of the local chapter of the National Association of Letter Carriers, echoed Mendonca's description of Larson, telling ABC News, "Jay was not just a coworker. Jay was not just a letter carrier. Jay is, was, and will always be a representative of the best of us."

"He constantly had a smile and a kind word," Steward said. "He gave us all of his best all the time, in life and leading to his death. Jay gave us his best. We will always remember that about him."

President Joe Biden released a statement Thursday afternoon saying that he and first lady Jill Biden were "horrified to learn of the brutal attack carried out in Rockford last night."

"We are praying for the families of those who lost loved ones, and hoping that all those injured make a full recovery," Biden said. "We are also grateful for the heroic actions of local law enforcement, who confronted the suspect and prevented the loss of more innocent life.
Federal law enforcement have offered all available assistance to local law enforcement as they investigate this heinous act. In the meantime, my Administration will do everything in its power to help the people of Rockford and the broader community recover from this traumatic event."

Biden added, "Families across America want the same thing: the freedom to feel safe in their community. That is my priority and the reason we’ve made major investments to provide communities with resources and law enforcement officers to prevent and fight crime. This tragic event is a reminder that we must continue to ensure that our police and first responders have the support they need to do their jobs and keep us safe.

Police initially said there were nine victims of the attack, including the four who were killed. The Winnebago County Sheriff's Office confirmed Thursday that two additional victims connected to the violence were subsequently located.

An officer brings out bags of evidence after a stabbing incident on March 27, 2024, near Cleveland Avenue in Rockford, Ill.
Kara Hawley/Rockford Register St via USA Today Network

The attacks unfolded around 1:14 p.m., local time, in a residential neighborhood in southeast Rockford, which is about 88 miles northwest of Chicago, according to authorities, who noted this was a "multi-jurisdictional crime scene."

Hanley said the killings started at the Schubachs' home, where Soto was visiting his longtime friend, Jacob Schubach. Hanley said Soto allegedly told investigators that he and Jacob Schubach smoked marijuana that he believed was laced with an unknown narcotic.

“Soto said he became paranoid after the drug usage. He said he retrieved a knife from the kitchen at Jacob’s house and proceeded to stab Jacob and Romona to death," Hanley said.

A witness told investigators he saw the suspect chasing Jacob Schubach out of the house and across the street, where he knocked the victim to the ground and began hitting or stabbing him with an object in his hands, Hanley said. The witness said the suspect got into his pickup truck and ran over Jacob Schubach, Hanley said.

Hanley said that, according to the witness, Schubach managed to get up and run back into his house and that the suspect stopped his truck, got out and went back into the home, where the Schubachs were later found dead from stab wounds.

“Soto stated that he then left the residence in his vehicle and he recalled ‘taking out the mailman,'" Hanley alleged.

Police stand in the street after a stabbing incident on Cleveland Avenue on March 27, 2024, in Rockford Ill.
Kara Hawley/Rockford Register St via USA Today Network

The mail carrier, Larson, was attacked in the front yard of a home. Another witness said he heard a commotion going on in his front yard and saw the suspect on top of his mail carrier, punching him, according to Hanley.

The witness told investigators he saw the assailant allegedly go back to his truck, retrieve a knife with an orange handle and proceed to stab Larson repeatedly, Hanley said. He said Larson yelled out to the witness to call the police.

The witness said the suspect started to approach his front door, prompting him to close the door and lock it, Hanley said. The witness watched from his window as the suspect got back into his truck and allegedly ran over Larson before putting the vehicle in reverse and backing over Larson, Hanley said.

The prosecutor alleged Soto then got out of his truck and ran to a nearby home, where he forced his way in and stabbed a woman and her two children, all of whom survived the attack with non-life-threatening injuries.

Hanley alleged Soto then went to another home nearby, where he fatally beat Jenna Newcomb with the softball bat and injured her sister and their friend in the basement of the home.

After leaving the Newcomb home, Soto allegedly broke into yet another residence and attacked a homeowner, identified as Lindsay Craig, with a knife, Hanley said. He said Craig ran from the home, but Soto allegedly caught her in her front yard and continued stabbing her in an attack that was caught on a security camera.

As Craig was being attacked outside her house, a good Samaritan, Keith Fahrney, was driving by in his Jeep and stopped to help Craig "without hesitation" by placing himself between Soto and Craig, Hanley said.

Hanley said Soto stabbed Fahrney, inflicting multiple injuries, and attempted to steal the Jeep. Fahrney chased after Soto and was trying to pull him from the Jeep when a Winnebago County sheriff's deputy arrived and intervened, Hanley said.

Christian Soto, 22, pictured in this jail booking photo, is suspected in a stabbing spree on March 27, 2024, in Rockford, Ill.
Winnebago County Jail

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana said the deputy chased Soto on foot and arrested him after a brief struggle, in which the deputy sustained cuts to his hands.

Hanley said Soto was "covered in blood" at the time of his arrest at about 1:35 p.m. local time.

Court records reviewed by ABC affiliate station WTVO in Rockford show Soto listed at an address in a neighborhood near where the killings occurred.

Within minutes of the attacks, police, paramedics, and sheriff's deputies responded to multiple crimes that spread from Rockford into an unincorporated area of Winnebago County, authorities said.

Police said they do not believe any other suspects are at large in the attack. Rockford Police Chief Redd said that federal agents, including U.S. Postal Service investigators, also are assisting in the probe.

This story has been updated to correct the misspelling of Keith Fahrney's name.