A five-year-old girl found walking alone outside a New Jersey apartment complex in the middle of the night led responding police officers to her mother’s body following a deadly stabbing.
According to a statement from Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella, in the early hours of Tuesday morning Michelle Burns, 36, a mother-of-three from Dumont, was repeatedly knifed in the neck during an argument with her boyfriend, 36-year-old Jeffrey Daniels, who then fled with the victim’s two other young children in tow.
A few hours later, police in the nearby city of Closter arrested Daniels and rescued Burns’ children, an infant and a young toddler, who were not harmed.
Scroll down for video
Jeffrey Daniels, 36 (left), has been arrested and charged with murder for allegedly stabbing to death his girlfriend, Michelle Burns, 36 (right), and fleeing with their young children
Burns’ body was discovered after a neighbor saw her five-year-old daughter walking alone in the courtyard of this apartment complex in Dumont, New Jersey, and called police
The suspect was charged with murder, possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child.
The case began unfolding at around 12.20am when police received a 911 call asking to perform a welfare check at Burns’ apartment in the 300 block if Knickerbocker Road in Dumont.
The caller told a dispatcher that she saw Burns’ eldest daughter wandering through the courtyard of the apartment complex without supervision after midnight.
Officers who arrived on the scene minutes later located the five-year-old and also spoke to Burns’ sister and neighbor, Nicole Boccellari, who told them that she had been trying to reach her older sibling by phone, but the woman was not answering.
The sister reported hearing the sounds of arguing coming from Burns’ apartment, which the hairstylist shared with Daniels and her three daughters, earlier in the evening.
Sometime later, the sister said Daniels had knocked on another neighbor’s door while carrying two small children and had asked her to give him a ride, but the woman refused to open the door out of fear, reported NorthJersey.com.
Police officers then made their way inside Burns’ apartment and found the mother dead from stab wounds to the neck inflicted by a kitchen knife.
Shortly after, police in Closter called their counterparts in Dumont to say that Daniels had been apprehended after attempting to knock on the front door of a home while wearing no pants or shoes, reported ABC 7 NY.
Burns, who worked as a hairstylist, was repeatedly stabbed in the neck with a kitchen knife. Her and Daniels’ children, ages six months and 18 months, were unharmed
The suspect was arrested and booked into Bergen County Jail.
Burns’ two youngest children by Daniels, an 18-month-old and a six-month-old, were taken to a hospital to await the arrival of caseworkers from the state Department of Children and Families.
Her eldest daughter is now in the custody of her biological father, Burns’ estranged husband.
The woman’s youngest sister said Burns and Daniels had a tumultuous romance marred by arguments and fights, but she never filed a restraining order against her boyfriend because she feared he would kill her.
Michelle’s older brother, John Boccellari, said he and other family members had made attempts to get her out of her fraught relationship with Daniels, but it did not work.
A friend has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help Burns’ family with her funeral expenses.