RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina man killed his two young daughters, their sister and their mother before fleeing to Virginia — just weeks after he was forced to get psychiatric help because of a suicide attempt, authorities said Wednesday.
Officers found the bodies on Tuesday night by forcing their way into the victims' home in Greenville after relatives called with concerns about their safety, Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said at a news conference. Hours later and more than 150 miles north in Richmond, officers caught 39-year-old Dibon Toone in the victim's car.
Toone was being held in Richmond on a murder charge in the mother's killing, and he will be charged with the deaths of the three children, Holtzman said. He said he expects Toone to be extradited later this week to Greenville, which is about 85 miles east of Raleigh.
The public defender's office in Pitt County, which includes Greenville, said Toone has not yet been assigned a lawyer.
Officers found the bodies of Garlette Howard, 32, and her three daughters — ages 6, 7 and 11 — around 8 p.m. Tuesday. Toone's relatives had called the police to say he made unsettling comments about their welfare. Holtzman declined to release the cause of death, but said the four may have been dead for several days.
Howard and Toone had been in a relationship, and he appears to have been living with the victims, Holtzman said. Holtzman said the two younger girls were Toone's daughters.
"As little girls, you should be able to trust your father — to look to him for advice, and know he will always be there to protect you. Dibon Toone betrayed that trust, and as a result, these little girls and their mother paid the ultimate price," the police department said in a news release.
Officers had also knocked on the door of the home Monday afternoon after Howard's co-workers called to say she hadn't come to work, but authorities had no reason to force entry then, Holtzman said.
Toone's arrest came around midnight Tuesday after Richmond police were alerted to a stolen car identified by North Carolina investigators, said Richmond Police spokesman James Mercante. Greenville Police say Toone was driving Howard's work-issued car.
Mercante said investigators including members of the U.S. Marshals regional fugitive task force arrested Toone.
Holtzman said some news outlets have quoted neighbors as saying that they had witnessed a physical fight days ago between Howard and Toone, but that no calls were made to police about it. The police department has no record of any other domestic violence related to the couple.
On July 22, officers were called to the home after Toone attempted to kill himself, according to the news release. He was involuntarily committed by officers for a psychiatric evaluation at a local hospital, but Holtzman didn't elaborate further on what happened.
Toone also previously faced charges after Howard reported in 2009 that he took her vehicle without permission. The police department said Toone's criminal history consists of unauthorized use of vehicles and larceny charges.
Associated Press Writer Sarah Brumfield in Washington contributed to this report.