A mother and two of her three young children were fatally stabbed early Wednesday in a motel housing homeless families on Staten Island, and police were searching for a man who they suspect killed the three, including his 4-month-old daughter, officials said.
“This is an atrocious crime,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference in police headquarters with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton. “I think every parent would share my view that their hearts would break to see children attacked.”
Police suspect the slayings occurred about 8:50 a.m. after a man identified as Michael Sykes, 23, of Brooklyn, was seen on a surveillance camera entering the room at the Ramada Inn in the Willowbrook section of Staten Island where the victims were stabbed.
Killed were Rebecca Cutler, 26, and her daughters Ziana Cutler, 1, and Maiyah Sykes, 4 months. Maiyah was Sykes’ daughter.
A third daughter, age 2, also was stabbed but survived and was listed in critical but stable condition at Richmond University Medical Center, police said.
Cutler and her children had been living at the Ramada Inn since Dec. 6 rather than being housed in a regular shelter.
According to police, Sykes and Cutler had a dispute on Tuesday in which Sykes took Cutler’s cellphone. Investigators were looking into whether Cutler was trying to rekindle a relationship with the father of one of the children. Investigators noted that neither Sykes nor Cutler had any significant criminal history, record of domestic violence or problems with the law.
Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said surveillance cameras showed Sykes and Cutler going to a nearby deli about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, then returning. Sykes remained in the hallway, and then entered the room for about four minutes. Police think this is when Cutler and the girls were attacked, Boyce said.
Sykes called a family member about 10:30 a.m. and admitted committing the crimes, threatening to take his own life, Boyce said, adding police found the knife used in the attack.
“We will see if that happens. Right now I would recommend everybody call 911 if they see him,” Boyce said.
The Ramada Inn had overnight security on duty from about 10 p.m. Tuesday to 6 a.m. Wednesday, de Blasio said.
Sykes is believed to have taken a bicycle to the Staten Island Ferry and crossed to Manhattan, police said. Sykes, also known by “Skyes,” lives in Howard Houses in Brooklyn, police said.
Wednesday afternoon, police began relocating dozens of shelter residents.
Denia Cuello, 27, has been living at the Ramada with her 9-month-old son since Jan. 18.
She said she has been concerned about safety at the hotel since she moved in. “There was never a security guard there since I came. … Anybody can come in and out of this hotel,” Cuello said.
Cuello, who has been living under the public shelter program for three years at multiple locations, said that hotel had the worst security she’d experienced.