The cousin of the New Jersey married father-of-two who police believe murdered his family before taking his own life this week has spoken out about the tragedy, speculating that the ‘devil’ must have gotten to him, causing him to snap.
Family members have identified the victims as Ruth Reyes, 30, her five-year-old daughter, Euriany, and two-year-old son, Eury.
Reyes’ husband has been identified as 54-year-old Eugenio Severino. Friends said the wife took out a restraining order against Severino last month because he had threatened to kill her.
Police found Reyes and her children stabbed to death inside the family’s apartment in Penns Grove, New Jersey, on Wednesday, not long after Severino was found hanging from a tree in nearby woods.
Johnny Solano, Severino’s cousin, spoke to NJ.com on Thursday, describing the moment police officers at the family’s apartment cordoned-off with yellow crime tape broke the grim news to him after he offered to give them Severino’s license plate number so they could track him down.
‘They told me, “Everybody’s gone.”‘ he recalled.
Solano, who employed Reyes at his restaurant and helped her find a second job, said he knew she and Severino were having martial problems, and that his cousin was upset after the wife forced him out of their apartment two weeks ago.
Solano said he urged Severino to take some time to cool off, but he said his cousin would not stop calling his wife.
‘I thought he never would have hurt her,’ Solano said. ‘Because he loved this little boy and this little girl. But in the moment, I guess the devil got him.’
The tragic incident began unfolding on Wednesday morning when a passerby came across Severino’s body hanging from a tree in the woods off of Sportsman Road in Carneys Point, reported CBS Philadelphia.
Local police officers looked up the man’s address in nearby Penns Grove and contacted their colleagues there, requesting a welfare check at his apartment on Helms Cove Lane.
When Penns Grove cops made their way inside the unit, they found Reyes stabbed to death in the bathroom alongside her children, the Spanish-language news site Diario Libre reported.
Solano said Reyes and Severino had been married in her native Dominican Republic, before she legally emigrated to the US and settled in New Jersey two years ago.
Reyes was 24 years Severino’s junior and had a son from a previous relationship, who lives in the Dominican Republic.
Solano said he knew that Reyes and Severino’s already strained relationship took a turn for the worse two weeks ago, when the husband threatened to kill the wife and she kicked him out of their apartment.
Reyes then went to court and obtained a restraining order against Severino.
Next-door neighbor Elibeth Ortiz said she, too, was aware of the couple’s marital problems. She said Severino was ‘too possessive’ and the pair sometimes could be heard arguing.
Those who knew Reyes described her as a great mother to her children and a kind person.
‘She was always there for her kids, always working,’ friend Keyla Padilla told 6ABC. ‘If not working, she was in her house. She was very humble and stayed to herself. Very friendly.’
Reyes’ family, including her parents and surviving son, are making arrangements to have her and her children’s bodies transported back to the Dominican Republic for burial.