- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Authorities stopped morning commuters Friday in hopes of getting a better description of a man suspected in the slayings of a mother and her three children in their western North Carolina home.

The four victims were shot or stabbed to death Thursday while the father was at work. Police found the bodies after a friend called 911 to say the family’s teenage daughter was attacked on the porch and pulled inside the house near Conover, 40 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman said deputies have received varying descriptions _ different races, ages, heights and weights _ of the man seen near the house Thursday morning. Authorities were trying to weed out inaccurate information to produce the best details of the suspect, which they hoped to release later Friday.

“We’re just grabbing at straws right now, but the information is coming in very good _ both materially and verbally,” Huffman said. “It’s going to take a while, it looks like, but the things you do in a case like this in the first 48 hours (are) the key to how your case is going to be built.”

Investigators have not released the victims’ names, but have identified them as the mother and her three children _ a 20-year-old woman, her 17-year-old sister and the 3-year-old brother.

Authorities were examining a gun found in the bushes nearby. Huffman also said authorities found two stolen vehicles Thursday that were still running, one near the home and one near the school of one of the victims. He wasn’t sure if the vehicles were connected to the killings.

Investigators have said that the teenager was headed to school in a friend’s vehicle when the friend mentioned seeing a suspicious man outside the home. They decided to return to the house, and the man attacked the teen on the porch and pulled her into the home, authorities said. The friend called 911.

Huffman said he believes the house was targeted when the father was away at work.

“My personal opinion is that this was a selected situation. It was not random,” Huffman said. “They did not arbitrarily pick that house. They knew who lived there and what the situation was because the father had gone to work in another county, apparently. The person apparently knew the pattern, if you will, that the three women and the little child would be there.”

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