NEW YORK (AP) — Police on Saturday arrested a fugitive suspected of stabbing his girlfriend and all three of her small children with a kitchen knife in a brutal attack at a hotel used as homeless housing, ending a four-day manhunt.
Michael Sykes was last seen on surveillance footage Wednesday heading to the Staten Island Ferry shortly after the fatal attack, and a call to his mother to say he'd killed his girlfriend and was going to kill himself, police said. But he took the ferry back to Manhattan and had been traveling through Brooklyn and Queens.
He was nabbed in Queens Saturday afternoon and brought back to a police precinct on Staten Island. He was arrested on three counts of murder, attempted murder and robbery charges. Sykes was in police custody Saturday night and couldn't be reached for comment. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney who could comment on the allegations.
Rebecca Cutler, 26, her 19-month-old daughter Ziana and 4-month-old Maiyah died in the attack at a Ramada Inn on Staten Island. Two-year-old Miracle was in critical condition but was stable. Sykes was the father of Maiyah.
Shortly before the attack, Sykes bought a can of Coke and a Pop-Tart from a deli near the hotel, a worker there told the Staten Island Advance this week.
"He looked like he was doing something wrong," the worker, Sammy Abdul, told the newspaper. He said Sykes used Cutler's food assistance card to pay for his purchases and "his hands were shaking, he was looking to his back."
Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said nobody apparently heard or saw what happened, but hotel surveillance video shows Sykes entering Cutler's hotel room just before 9 a.m. Wednesday and leaving four minutes later. Police said there was no history of domestic violence between the two, but a report had been filed a day before the stabbing after he was accused of stealing Cutler's phone, claiming she was contacting another man.
A housekeeper found the injured family and called police. Cutler had been stabbed more than 40 times; the girls more than five times each. Cutler's family was not doing well. "They're taking it hard, really hard," her uncle, James Mathis, told WABC-TV.
Cutler had been placed in the hotel by the Department of Homeless Services on Dec. 6, city officials said. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said after the attack the other 28 families at the hotel were being relocated and it would no longer be used, and that other hotels used for homeless services would be given access to free 24-hour security.
About 2,600 homeless New Yorkers, including 637 children, stay in 41 hotels citywide for an average of about two weeks while officials determine whether they can be placed more permanently in other city facilities, officials said.
It was the third stabbing death at a homeless shelter in several weeks, prompting the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to send city officials a letter demanding "immediate action" to protect residents.
"This is the third incident of horrific violence in one of your facilities in less than a month," wrote executive director Sharon Devine. "We expect and demand that you take immediate action to protect shelter residents."