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An employee at a P.F. Chang’s in Peabody who was stabbed to death in the restaurant’s kitchen by a co-worker Saturday night was a hardworking immigrant who moved to the United States to escape violence and start a family, his sister said Sunday.

Elivelton Dias, 38, moved from Vitoria, Brazil, to Salem when he was 25 in 2002, hoping to get away from a city with widespread killings. The United States always appealed to him, Eliane Dias, the victim’s sister, said in an online interview translated from Portuguese.

“It hurts so much. He liked it so much there,” Eliane Dias wrote. “He said there wasn’t violence, that it was a good place to live, to work.”

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Elivelton Dias was happy in Salem, enjoying a far more relaxed lifestyle then he was accustomed to in his native Brazil, where his sister said he was “afraid of the violence.” He’d found steady work as a sous chef at the P.F. Chang’s in the Northshore Mall, where he’d been employed for “many years,” she said. His wife had just given birth to a baby girl on Aug. 22 — his only child. He was an excellent cook, his sister said.

But on Saturday night, Dias’s fate changed in a bizarre incident that has left his family puzzled. Jaquan Huston, 23, allegedly grabbed a knife in the restaurant’s kitchen and stabbed Dias in the back during the dinner rush. As co-workers screamed and scrambled to help, Huston fled the restaurant. He was later arrested at his Salem home and charged with first-degree murder.

When police arrived at the restaurant, they said they found Dias on the kitchen floor, with a large stab wound in his back. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

Investigators are “not speculating as to a motive,” said Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for the Essex district attorney’s office.

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Eliane Dias, who lives in Brazil, said her brother was a “marvelous man” who was easy to get along with.

“My brother lived to work, and had no problem working with anyone,” she wrote. “A monstrosity what this killer did, killing him behind his back.”

At a press conference outside the mall Saturday night, Peabody Police Chief Thomas M. Griffin said the mall’s patrons need not be concerned for their safety.

“The two gentlemen knew each other and happened to be co-workers,” he said. “This had nothing to do with the mall.”

Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett told reporters outside the mall that the stabbing was “an isolated incident.”

“It’s a very difficult, sad situation,” he said, adding that his office would investigate.

P.F. Chang’s officials released a statement on what they called the “tragic incident,” offering condolences to the family of the victim.

“We will be mobilizing support to provide care to our colleague’s family, as well as our fellow employees, during this difficult time,” officials wrote in the statement.

“We are also cooperating with local law enforcement as they conduct their investigation.”

The restaurant closed after the stabbing and calls to the location were unanswered Sunday.

Huston is expected to be arraigned in Peabody District Court on Monday.

His mother told NECN reporters that her son “snapped.” “That is not him,” she said in an interview. “He is not a murderer.”

Eliane Dias said Huston destroyed her family.

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“Pray for us,” she said Sunday. “We need it.”


Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera @globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @jacktemp.