SALISBURY — Philip Hughes had been living next door to his niece and her husband for seven or eight years, and never knew the couple to have a serious fight.
But officials allege Nicholas Foster, 29, stabbed his wife and a man in the couple’s house on Cable Avenue early Thursday afternoon before a confrontation with police in which he allegedly rammed a police cruiser and menaced officers with a machete and knife.
Police fatally shot him after Foster refused their orders for him to drop his weapons, witnesses said.
“Nobody knows what made him snap,” Hughes said Friday in an interview at his home. “I remained composed, but it’s something I’m going to think about for a long time, maybe the rest of my life.”
Hughes identified his niece as Tracie Hughes, but said she changed her name some time ago to Alice Zombie. She is about 29, he said.
He said he did not know the man injured in the attack.
Police arrived at the couple’s house about 12:47 p.m. and found both victims suffering from severe knife wounds, according to a statement from Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett.
They remained hospitalized Friday in stable condition, according to the statement. Monahan declined to give their names.
Zombie and Foster were married several years ago on Cape Cod, Hughes said. They lived in the house Zombie grew up in with her father, Joseph Hughes, he said.
Hughes said his family built his home and the one Zombie and Foster shared.
He believes Foster may have been upset by the man who was visiting Zombie.
“He just lost it and stabbed them both,” Hughes said. “I don’t know. Maybe he got jealous. I don’t know why he lost it.”
Prosecutors have not disclosed a motive for the attack. Hughes said he did not know why Foster had a machete.
After the stabbing, Foster drove his car into a marked cruiser on Cable Avenue while trying to flee, then pulled out his weapons, prosecutors said.
Neighbor Fiona McClelland said she was gardening when she heard the car crash and ran out to offer assistance.
“I said, ‘Are you OK?’ He didn’t answer me,” McClelland said by phone.
McClelland said she saw Foster reach for something, then she ran back into her house after an armed police sergeant yelled at her to get out of the way.
When she got inside her house, McClelland called 911 and told police to send more officers to the scene.
She said Foster had a “crazed look.”
Foster at times was talking to himself and swaying back and forth, almost like he was dancing, McClelland said.
At one point, Foster started exchanging words with the officers, but he did not drop the machete or knife, said Nancy Meehan, who witnessed part of the confrontation.
Meehan said she heard officers tell Foster, “Come on, you were just talking with us. Come on! You can settle down. Settle down! Drop the weapons! Drop the weapons!”
Meehan said she heard the sounds of a Taser and seven to 10 gunshots simultaneously.
“It was all sides shooting,” Meehan said.
“I didn’t think they were going to kill him, you know. I really didn’t think they would kill someone right here on your street.”
Hughes said police were defending themselves by opening fire.
“The cop had no choice,” he said.
Monahan declined to identify the officers involved because prosecutors are conducting an investigation into the use of deadly force by police.
Salisbury police declined to comment Friday evening.
McClelland is grateful for the actions police took.
“I thank God as a citizen in Salisbury that the police were there that day because he would have continued his rampage,” she said. “The police did the whole street a favor.”John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at email@example.com.