Man charged in Rockford stabbings that left 4 dead, 7 injured

ROCKFORD — Charges have been filed against a man who is accused of carrying out a stabbing rampage killing four people including a mail carrier and a 15-year-old girl and injuring seven others across multiple locations, authorities said Thursday.

Christian I. Soto, 22, was charged with murder, attempted murder and home invasion in connection with the Wednesday attack, Winnebago County state’s attorney J. Hanley announced during a nearly 45-minute long media briefing at midday Thursday.

Soto is scheduled to appear at 1:30 p.m. for a court hearing on the charges, Hanley said.

One of the victims was a letter carrier.

Soto took a 25-year postal veteran from his family, said Ruth Mendoza, of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service during the briefing.

“This tragedy occurred while he was doing his job,” Mendoza said. “Jay was doing what he loved, serving his community,” Mendoza said.

During a sometimes emotional speech, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara announced the names of the dead, one of whom was a 15-year-old girl named Jenna.

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

“These are dark days but we are Rockfordians and we will get through this,” the mayor said, adding people need to lift each other up and keep together.

“Be kind to your neighbors and be thoughtful with words,” McNamara said haltingly, appearing to choke up. “If the last couple of days doesn’t show you … life is just far too short to speak hate.”

Rockford Police Chief Carla Redd said earlier one person who was wounded remained in critical condition.

“My heart goes out to the families right now that are suffering a loss,” Redd told reporters earlier.

She said the Rockford Police received a medical call at 1:14 p.m. followed by additional calls for police and paramedics.

“We don’t believe there’s any other suspects that are on the run or at large at this particular time,” Redd said earlier. “Right now, we don’t have a clear motive as to what caused this individual to commit such a heinous crime.”

Not all of the victims found at multiple addresses in the city had stab wounds and none were shot, Redd said earlier.

Rockford police initially said five people had been injured. Cori Hilliard, a public information officer with the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, told the Associated Press on Wednesday evening that two more victims were among those hurt.

Three people died at the scenes. The fourth died at a hospital.

Police later identified those victims as a 15-year-old girl, a 63-year-old woman, a 49-year-old man and a 22-year-old man. Their names were not released.

Redd said residents in the area were being asked to review their home surveillance camera footage for anything related to the attacks.

Rockford’s population is about 150,000. The violence Wednesday came days after a teenage employee of a Walmart in the city was stabbed and killed inside the store.

“Today, we are shocked by another horrific act of violence against innocent members of our community,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said earlier. Now that the suspect is in custody, he continued, “Our primary concern is ensuring that our community members directly impacted by this violence are supported throughout their healing and recovery.”

The mayor wrote on the city’s Facebook page that “multiple jurisdictions” are “working on multiple crime scenes to develop an understanding of what transpired in an effort to prevent this from happening again.”

The suspect was arrested by a Winnebago County sheriff’s deputy after law enforcement was called to a reported home invasion, Sheriff Gary Caruana said.

“The young lady ran from him,” Caruana said of one of the survivors. “She got some stab wounds in her hands and her face. She is in serious condition. One of the good Samaritans stopped to help her out. He did get some stab wounds. He is being checked out.”

Resident Eric Patterson said he was struggling to make sense of the violence on his street.

“You can’t rationalize this,” Patterson told the Rockford Register Star earlier. “It’s almost like playing a video game, but it’s reality. It makes no sense. It’s like Grand Theft Auto. ‘I’m going to run over the mailman here. I’m going to stab a couple people there. I am going to go in this house over here.’”

Another resident, Vanessa Hy, told WREX-TV in Rockford that the experience of witnessing the arrest was unreal, “like a movie.”

“All of the sudden, we heard police run up on both sides of the house screaming ‘Stop! Get down!’” Hy told the station. “Then they ran into the backyard and after a few minutes we saw them bringing the suspect down the driveway in handcuffs and he was very bloody.”

Cassandra Hernandez, another neighbor, told the Rockford paper that she was friends with one of the victims.

“You never expect this here,” Hernandez said. “We have such great neighbors.”

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