Four in family slain in Catawba

The Charlotte ObserverMarch 13, 2009 

Authorities were searching Thursday night for a suspect and a motive in the slaying of four family members who were shot and stabbed to death in a quiet Catawba County neighborhood.

Investigators did not think the attack was a random home invasion and said they were looking for a suspect. But they said Thursday night that they had no firm leads on his whereabouts.

Deputies were called to the home on Gristmill Drive near the town of Conover at about 7 a.m. and found the bodies of three females and a boy, said Catawba County Sheriff's Maj. Coy Reid.

Investigators wouldn't identify the victims, and family and friends gave conflicting information about their last names. But a family friend, Seng Saetern, said Brian Tzeo lived at the home and that the victims were his wife, Lisa, her 20-year-old daughter, Melanie, 18-year-old daughter, Pauline, and 3-year-old son, Cody.

A teenage girl who called 911 told investigators that she saw a man assaulting her friend, who was one of the victims, on the front porch of the home, Reid said.

The girl, whom Reid would not identify, said she had driven to the home to pick up her friend to take her to Bunker Hill High School, where both were students, Reid said. She said they started to drive away when the girl told her friend that she had seen a man on the family's front porch. They returned to the house, and the friend got out of the car, Reid said. Then, the girl told investigators, the man started assaulting the friend, and the girl drove away and called 911.

Police found a pistol in a yard a few blocks from the crime scene, Reid said. A woman who was driving out of the neighborhood that morning told police she saw a man fitting the description of the suspect driving away in a black or dark blue Toyota Camry. She said the car had an out-of-state tag with a number starting with P24.

Saetern said the family had lived in Catawba County about 10 years after moving there from California. Lisa worked second shift at a Tyson chicken plant in Wilkesboro, and her husband, Brian, works first shift at International Paper in Statesville. Melanie was taking health management courses at Catawba Valley Community College, said friend Pete Saetern.

Police are looking for an Asian or Hispanic man in his 30s, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall, with medium-length, coal-black hair. The suspect was wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans Thursday morning. No other identifying features such as facial hair, scars or tattoos were provided.

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