M E R C E D, Calif., Aug. 24, 2000 -- A stranger broke into a home and fatallystabbed a 9-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother with apitchfork before he was shot to death by sheriff's deputies.
Three other siblings, including one who was bleeding from puncture wounds, escaped by climbing through windows and runningthrough fields to a neighbor’s house, where one called 911.
“There’s somebody in my house who I don’t know,” 14-year-old Jessica Lynn Carpenter told the dispatcher. “[He’s] stabbing my brother and sister with a pitchfork. You have to careful—he’s going to kill them.”
When deputies arrived at the house in this rural community about 60 miles north of Fresno, the stranger charged at them with thepitchfork, authorities said.
“He was pointing it at them and going right after them. He wouldn’t stop,” Assistant Sheriff Henry Strength said. “They werehollering at him to stop, but he wouldn’t stop. Finally they had to shoot him.”
The man’s identity was not immediately known, but there appeared to be no connection between him and the family, Strength said.
“He came from nowhere. Right now we have no motive. We have no reason why this thing even happened,” Strength said.
Killed in Their Beds
Ashley Danielle Carpenter, 9, and John William Carpenter, 8, were killed in their beds at their home on Vassar Avenue on the outskirts of the city.
The children’s parents were not at home at the time, the Merced Sun-Star reported.
The girl who phoned 911 told authorities she had just woken up and when she left her bedroom she noticed that the man appeared tobe getting dressed. He had closed all the windows and pushed the furniture pushed up against the walls.
Jessica ran back to her room, locked the door and tried to call for help from her phone, but the line was dead, she told relatives.She escaped out of her window and ran barefoot through the fields until she found a neighbor who was at home.
Neighbors on the street that is surrounded by farmland were shocked by the violence that had visited their rural street.
“It’s just mind-blowing that someone kills a family two houses down in the country where we have a safe haven,” said John Ortega,who until Wednesday never locked the doors of his house.
Darrell Jones, 76, said he had just met the father and his young son in the past week as the father returned a horse that escaped from a neighbor’s corral.
‘A Nice Little Boy’
“He sure was a nice little boy who was killed,” Jones said. “I don’t know why anybody would do that.”
The deputies who confronted the pitchfork-toting assailant were veterans of the department. One had been with the force about fiveyears and the other had been a deputy for about 20 years. Their names were not released and it was not immediately clear how manyshots were fired.
Investigators were checking the fingerprints of the assailant and the sheriff’s office expected to release a photograph todayif he had not been identified.
He was described as about 35 years old, white and weighing 180 to 200 pounds.
One of the sisters who escaped, Anna Marie Carpenter, 13, was hospitalized early today in satisfactory condition at SutterMerced Medical Center with eight puncture wounds.
“It’s worse than any horror you could imagine,” said Priscilla Hilton, 20, a cousin of the victims who visited the survivors atthe hospital.