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Police search for suspect after three elderly people found dead inside Newton home; residents told to ‘be vigilant’

Newton police maintained a presence at 49 Broadway Street Monday morning, where three elderly people were found murdered on Sunday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

NEWTON — Authorities are searching for a suspect after three people were fatally attacked in their Nonantum home Sunday, officials said, setting the community on edge as police urged residents to lock their doors and report anything that seems suspicious.

Two of the victims had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past weekend, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said at a news conference Sunday night. A neighbor checking on their well-being found their bodies, along with that of a third person, at a home on Broadway Street Sunday morning.

Ryan said the victims, whose names were not released, appeared to have died of stab wounds and blunt-force trauma. There were signs of forced entry at the home, she said, encouraging area residents to “be vigilant.”

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“This is the night to lock your doors and windows, even if you do not normally do that,” Ryan said.

The violence deeply rocked Nonantum, where residents were grappling with the sudden loss of three residents in the neighborhood, which proudly celebrates its deep Italian heritage.

Jim Sbordone, a retired Newton Fire Department lieutenant who was close friends with the victims, said they were longtime, active members of Our Lady Help of Christians Church, which is about a mile from their home. The third victim was the woman’s mother, who was in her late 90s, according to Sbordone.

“They were fantastic Italian people who wouldn’t hurt a soul, and they would just do anything for anybody,” Sbordone said. “These were great people.”

Ryan said there was an attempted break-in about 5:45 a.m. Sunday at a home on Brookside Avenue, about half a mile from the house on Broadway, but it was not yet clear whether the incidents were related.

She asked residents of Nonantum and Newtonville to check any surveillance cameras at their homes for video of anything unusual.

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“At this time police are actively searching for the person or persons responsible,” she said, adding authorities do not have a suspect. “We want to be clear, we do not know and we do not have any information at this point linking anybody to that family.”

Residents were told to report any suspicious activity to Newton police at 617-796-2123, or in an emergency, call 911, authorities said.

Newton Police Chief John Carmichael said neighbors could expect to see a heightened police presence in Nonantum and Newtonville through Monday.

”We are obviously very concerned with such a violent crime taking place within our city,” he said.

Investigators closed a section of Broadway between Churchill Street and Linwood Avenue Sunday while they were conducting their investigation.

The couple had just celebrated their wedding anniversary Saturday night, Sbordone said in an interview. They were planning on renewing their vows at the church Sunday, but the couple never arrived. A neighbor who was a close friend checked on them, discovered the bodies, and called police, he said.

“I’m just really feeling for [the neighbor] right now,” Sbordone said.

Sbordone, who served in the Fire Department for 31 years and has lived in Newton since 1964, said the violence has been very unsettling.

“This isn’t the type of thing that happens in the neighborhood,” he said. “I hope it never happens again to anybody.”

Officers, some wearing crime-scene booties, probed the area around the couple’s home, walking across the front lawn and flower beds that neighbors said the couple constantly tended.

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Some friends and family sat quietly across the street, which remained closed and full of police cars.

Jack Porter, who said he has lived nearby for 18 years, said this is a “very safe neighborhood.”

“I don’t even lock my doors; I don’t even lock my car,” Porter said.

Maria Scibelli Greenberg, a Newton city councilor whose ward includes Nonantum, said in a phone interview that residents of the neighborhood are struggling to make sense of what happened.

“They are longstanding members of the neighborhood. It’s just shocking,” Greenberg said. “This is a quiet, safe neighborhood.”

Residents spent much of the day texting one another, sharing what they know, and trying to understand more about what happened, she said.

“They can’t believe that it happened. They are waiting to hear from the mayor and police,” Greenberg said.

One neighbor who didn’t want to give his name said he’s known the victims for years and saw them out doing lawn work often.

“They’re a fantastic couple,” said the neighbor, who said he had lived there for 20 years. “We’re going to miss them.”

“I hope they rest in peace,” he said.

Neighbors who live in the area of the Brookside Avenue home where the attempted break-in was reported said they saw police searching with police dogs Sunday.

“It’s scary,” said Kris Jiwa, who moved to the area with her family about four years ago. “I have a 17-year-old son, and they fear nothing, the kids will go out until 1 or 2 in the morning and that’s OK because it’s Newton and it’s safe, but that changed today.”

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Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com. Sean Cotter can be reached at sean.cotter@globe.com. Follow him @cotterreporter. Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com.