New York - A Chinese immigrant who neighbours said struggled to survive in America was arrested Sunday on five counts of murder in the stabbing deaths of his cousin's wife and her four children in their Brooklyn home - using a butcher knife.
The suspect, 25-year-old Mingdong Chen, implicated himself in the killings late on Saturday in the Sunset Park neighbourhood, police said.
"They were cut and butchered with a kitchen knife," said Chief of Department Philip Banks III.
Two girls, 9-year-old Linda Zhuo and 7-year-old Amy Zhuo, were pronounced dead at the scene, along with the youngest child, 1-year-old William Zhuo. Their brother, 5-year-old Kevin Zhuo, and 37-year-old mother, Qiao Zhen Li, were taken to hospitals, where they also were pronounced dead.
Chen is a cousin of the children's father and had been staying at the home for the past week or so, Banks said. He came to the United States from China in 2004 and seemingly struggled to make it, Banks said.
"Ever since he came to this country, everybody seems to be doing better than him," he said.
On Saturday night, Chen had apparently been acting in such a way that concerned Li, Banks said. She tried to call her husband, who wasn't home, but couldn't reach him.
Banks said Li called her mother-in-law in China, who also was unsuccessful in reaching her son. The mother-in-law reached out to her daughter, who lives in the neighbourhood, Banks said.
She and her husband came to the house and banged on the door, then called police. Officers in the area investigating another matter responded, Banks said.
"It's a scene you'll never forget," he said. The victims had wounds in their necks and torsos.
Chen was in custody and wasn't immediately available to comment. He also faces counts of assault on a police officer, which happened while he was being processed, and resisting arrest, Banks said.
Bob Madden, who lives nearby, was out walking his dog when he saw a man being escorted from the building by police. He was barefoot, wearing jeans, and "he was staring, he was expressionless," Madden said.
Yuan Gao, a cousin of the mother, said the man had recently moved to the area and had been staying with different people.
Fire department spokesperson Jim Long said emergency workers responded just before 23:00 to an emergency call from a person stabbed at the residence in Sunset Park, a working-class neighbourhood of adjoining two-story brick buildings with a large Chinese community.
Neighbour May Chan told the Daily News it was "heartbreaking" to learn of the deaths.
"I always see [the kids] running around here," Chan said. "They run around by my garage playing. They run up and down screaming."