An 8-year-old girl returning from school found the bodies of her parents and another relative in their Mississippi home and authorities said the victims all died of stab wounds.
Authorities identified the dead as Mei Rong Li and her husband Rong Chen, both 30, and a relative, Mei Jin Li, 53. All the victims are from China. They were found in their house in D'Iberville, a town of about 9,400 people north of Biloxi on Mississippi's Gulf Coast.
Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said they died Wednesday from stab wounds to the chest. He declined to release more details due to the ongoing investigation.
Authorities took in four children, ages 8 to 16, until relatives arrived. Witnessed had seen the father with the youngest child in their yard just before she got on the bus Wednesday morning.
"They seem to be doing quite well considering the circumstances," Hargrove said. "But you can see the distraught look on their faces. It's like, `what's going to happen to me now.'"
Paul Powell, 57, said he was working on a customer's hot rod car Wednesday afternoon in front of his business, Stringer Auto Center, when an extremely distraught little girl walked up to him. It was the 8 year old.
"I looked up and there was a little girl. I could tell she was really super upset, crying and couldn't really talk and she's just saying, `our waitress killed my aunt.' And I said, `what', and she said, `he killed my aunt,'" Powell recalled.
Powell called police. He said he's not sure what the girl may have meant when she said a waitress killed her aunt. The child said "waitress," but also said "he," Powell said, adding that she was emotional and may have been confused.
D'Iberville Police Department Operations Commander Captain Clay Jones said the victims were the owners of the Chinese Happiness restaurant in D'Iberville. Police searched the business on Thursday. Jones said he could not comment on the girl's statement due to the ongoing investigation.
Nobody answered the phone at the restaurant on Thursday, and the voice mailbox was full.
Powell, the mechanic, said his shop is about five buildings from the house where the bodies were found and he's not sure why the little girl came there, though he has worked on the family's car.
"She was telling my son that her brother should be getting home from school any minute. Next thing I know there's about 10 police cars there," Powell told The Associated Press. "My stomach's still quivering after seeing that little girl in that condition. It's spooky."
Harrison County Superintendent of Education Henry Arledge said the victims had four children in the school district _ one in elementary, two in middle school and one in high school. He said the Mississippi Department of Human Services had custody of the children and a teacher had wanted to take them in hopes of keeping them from being separated.
"It's a terrible situation, but I feel like the community will come together to help these kids," Arledge said.
Hargove said he's not sure the relationship of the third victim to the married couple, but it appears she was an aunt of one of the two.
"It's heartbreaking," he said. "This is the first triple homicide we've had in D'Iberville. It's usually a quiet, little town."
D'Iberville police urged anyone with information to call them.