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4 dead, 7 injured in stabbing rampage in Rockford, Illinois, residential area, authorities say

Four people were killed, including a teenager and a US Postal Service worker, in a drug-fueled stabbing rampage in Rockford, Illinois, on Wednesday afternoon.

Christian Soto, 22, is in custody, charged with the murder of four people and attempting to murder seven others, State’s Attorney J. Hanley told reporters Thursday. Hanley said he expects more charges to be filed.

Those killed include 63-year-old Ramona Schupbach, 49-year-old Jay Larson, 23-year-old Jacob Schupbach and 15-year-old Jenna Newcomb.

One of the surviving victims remains hospitalized in stable condition, Rockford police Chief Carla Redd told reporters Thursday afternoon.

Five of the attempted murders were charged in the city of Rockford, while two others are charged in Winnebago County.

From left, Ramona Schupbach, Jacob Schupbach and Jenna Newcomb - Obtained by CNN
From left, Ramona Schupbach, Jacob Schupbach and Jenna Newcomb - Obtained by CNN

Soto had a short court appearance Thursday afternoon and will remain in custody until his detention hearing, which is scheduled for Tuesday, according to a trial court administrator in Winnebago County. CNN has reached out to an attorney for Soto.

Christian Soto, 22, is in custody and facing four counts of first-degree murder, among other charges, according to prosecutors. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office overlayed text on this image. - Winnebago County Sheriff's Office
Christian Soto, 22, is in custody and facing four counts of first-degree murder, among other charges, according to prosecutors. The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office overlayed text on this image. - Winnebago County Sheriff's Office

How the attacks unfolded

Police say the attacks began after Soto visited Jacob Schupbach’s home to smoke marijuana.

“Soto said he believed the drugs provided to him by Jacob were ‘laced’ with an unknown narcotic,” according to the criminal complaint read to reporters by Hanley. “Soto said he became paranoid after the drug usage” and stabbed Jacob Schupbach and Ramona Schupbach to death with a knife he took from their kitchen.

After leaving the Schupbach home, police say Soto admitted to attacking Larson, a letter carrier. Larson had multiple stab wounds, according to Hanley, and was also allegedly run over twice by a pickup truck driven by Soto, according to a witness who spoke to police.

Police say Soto, while armed with “a katana-style knife,” entered another home and began attacking people inside, all of whom survived.

Responding to another call, police found the 15-year-old girl dead in the basement of a home. Two other juvenile girls were severely beaten but survived, the complaint said.

Police initially said they received a call for medical help at 1:14 p.m., followed by additional calls for assistance.

Officials responded to multiple addresses in the area of Holmes Street, Winnetka Drive, and Cleveland Avenue, according to a police statement.

Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana said county officials received a report of a home invasion after 1 p.m. He said a young woman had run from the suspect.

“She got some stab wounds in her hands and in her face,” he said.

Caruana said a good Samaritan who stopped to help the woman also suffered stab wounds but survived.

“The good Samaritan stopped that situation, and she could have easily become deceased if he did not get involved with that,” Caruana said.

Authorities arrived at the scene and a chase ensued, with one deputy jumping over several fences to apprehend the suspect, Caruana said.

Soto was taken into custody by 1:35 p.m., according to police.

Not all of the victims were stabbed, nor did they have any gunshot wounds, police said, but they did not indicate how the other victims died or were injured.

“We do have information that Jacob (Schupbach) and Christian have been friends for quite some time. As a matter of fact, to the point that it sounds like they grew up in the neighborhood together,” Redd said.

Court records list Soto as living in the neighborhood where the attacks took place.

The State’s Attorney says it’s not clear how an incident that started with drug use turned into such a violent series of attacks at multiple homes.

“I don’t really have a good answer for that, and I’m not sure we will,” said Hanley.

A shaken community

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara urged the community to come together to remember the victims and recover from the trauma of the attacks.

“Jenna’s mom wants the community to know that Jenna died saving her sister and her friend and protecting them from further harm,” McNamara told reporters Thursday.

Larson had been with the US Postal Service for over two decades, Ruth Mendoza, inspector in charge with the US Postal Inspection Service, said Thursday.

“Jay was doing what he loved, serving his community, delivering mail to customers that he has served for 25 years,” Mendoza said.

Police urged residents to look at their security and doorbell cameras for any video footage related to the incidents, and to submit any tips to police or anonymously through the Rockford Area Crime Stoppers.

Rockford is roughly 90 miles west of Chicago and has a population of about 150,000 people.

McNamara said he was “totally shaken by this act of violence and the impact that it’s having now on multiple families’ lives.”

Counselors are on-site at Flinn Middle School to help those impacted by the attacks, he said. The demand for those services has been so high that additional counselors have been called in to assist, he said.

“It’s hard to grasp how this could happen and how emotional and raw the community is tonight,” the mayor said in a Facebook post. “As a dad, a son, a husband, the Mayor and a Rockford supporter, my heart is breaking for those who have lost their lives, their families and our community.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “horrified” to learn about the attacks.

“We are praying for the families of those who lost loved ones, and hoping that all those injured make a full recovery. We are also grateful for the heroic actions of local law enforcement, who confronted the suspect and prevented the loss of more innocent life,” Biden said in a statement released Thursday by the White House.

CNN’s Emma Tucker and Jennifer Feldman contributed to this report.

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