By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A homeless 26-year-old woman and two of her daughters, a 4-month-old and a 1-year-old, were stabbed to death at a motel in the New York City borough of Staten Island on Monday, police said.
A third daughter, 2, who was also stabbed was in stable condition after surgery.
Police were searching for 23-year-old Michael Sykes, who is suspected of attacking the family at a Ramada Inn. Sykes was the father of the youngest child, city officials said.
"As a parent, there is nothing more horrible than the loss of a child," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference. "This family has gone through an unspeakable tragedy."
Chief of Detectives for the New York City Police Department Robert Boyce said security cameras at the motel showed Sykes entering the room where the family had been staying in lieu of a city shelter.
Boyce said Sykes left the room a few minutes later and took a bus to a ferry that runs between Staten Island and Manhattan. Police believe he stabbed the mother, Rebecca Cutler, and her three children before leaving.
An emergency call to police was made around 10 a.m. after a maid found them. Cutler and the two girls were pronounced dead at local hospitals.
Police said Sykes and Cutler had an argument on Tuesday afternoon and were seen at a delicatessen with the children early on Wednesday morning.
The family had been staying at the Ramada in lieu of a homeless shelter, part of a program that places the homeless in hotels to help alleviate crowding at shelters.
De Blasio said the city would no longer use the Ramada Inn for homeless families and that 28 other families would be relocated.
As of Wednesday, some 41 hotels housed more than 2,500 homeless people, including more than 600 children, de Blasio said. Families typically stay at a hotel about two weeks.
Cutler and her family had been at the Ramada for two months.
De Blasio said the city was already planning to eliminate the use of hotel rooms.
Sykes was not staying at the hotel and lives at a Brooklyn housing project, officials said.
Police said they had recovered the murder weapon.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Lisa Shumaker)