PEABODY — As police arrested a suspect in a horrific weekend double murder, the father of one victim recalled his daughter Monday as a “lovely person” thrust into a world of drug and alcohol use after a lifetime of health problems that began at a young age.
Edward O’Connor said his 39-year-old daughter, Jennifer O’Connor, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 5. By 15, she had a stroke. And in her 20s, his daughter was prescribed OxyContin to deal with chronic pain, he said.
When Jennifer turned 30, things continued to get worse, and she contracted necrotizing fasciitis — a flesh-consuming disease — which left her in a medically-induced coma for weeks.
Health problems aside, Jennifer got involved with other drug users, her father said, leading her down a road marked by minor criminal offenses, prison time, and ultimately her gruesome death.
“She had some drug and alcohol problems that put her in the wrong environment with the wrong people,” Edward O’Connor said. “Because of all the other issues, it just spiraled down.”
On Saturday, Jennifer and her boyfriend, Mark Greenlaw, 37, were found dead at a home they shared on Farm Avenue in Peabody.
Their bodies had been dismembered, which initially made it difficult to determine how many victims there were. Police requested X-ray equipment from the state fire marshal’s office to help make an accurate count.
Police arrested Michael Hebb, 45, of Peabody, on Monday in connection with the slayings.
Hebb, who was taken into custody without incident and with assistance from a SWAT team, will be arraigned Tuesday in Peabody District Court on two counts of first-degree murder, according to Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.
A second suspect believed to be involved in the murders is still at large, according to officials.
The cause and manner of death have not been revealed because autopsies are still ongoing, Kimball Monahan said. Authorities have not released a possible motive for the killings.
State Police learned about the deaths at about 11:30 p.m. Saturday, when a woman who had been inside the home where the bodies were later discovered arrived at police barracks in Danvers, she said.
The woman had fled the home and flagged down a vehicle that brought her to the barracks. Troopers then went to the home and called for a police dog, she said.
Based on a statement the woman made to police, it appears that the people involved in the crime knew one another.
Greenlaw, one of the victims, was charged in 2010 with shooting a friend outside a commuter rail station in Lawrence, the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune reported.
Though the victim in that shooting originally claimed Greenlaw was a stranger, police reported that they knew one another from prison, and found Greenlaw’s phone number on the man’s cellphone listed as “Marky Mark.”
Police Chief Thomas Griffin said in a news conference at the scene that the home where Greenlaw and O’Connor were killed was known to police, according to video of the conference shown on WCVB-TV (Channel 5).
“We’ve been here a number of different times for all kinds of different incidents,” Griffin said. “It wouldn’t really be fair to characterize them as any one particular way.”
The faded white house sits two doors down from a working farm, and the smell of manure is detectable from some spots nearby. The yard is cluttered with cars of various vintages and states of repair, including two El Caminos.
According to property records, the building’s owner lives next door. That home was roped off with yellow crime-scene tape on Monday.
On the opposite side, two men who answered the door said they did not know their next-door neighbors and declined to comment further.
A woman who said she had known Greenlaw his entire life was stunned by the news of his murder. “I’m in disbelief that somebody would do that to somebody,” said Pam Cordeiro, 51, a Peabody native who said she had been friends with Greenlaw’s aunt growing up. “For what reason?”
Cordeiro said Greenlaw was “a troubled kid” with a good heart, who looked out for others. “He protected his family,” she said. “He was loved.”
Hebb was arrested Monday afternoon at 84 Aborn St., in a complex of yellow-sided four-story apartment buildings in a dense residential neighborhood near Peabody Square. Around 2 p.m. Monday, the complex was quiet, with only one police cruiser and one police SUV visible as a uniformed officer stood sentry outside the address.
Next door to the complex where Hebb was arrested, neighbor Kimberly Polidoro, 50, said she had only recently moved into the building and did not know Hebb. She said she was horrified by the crime.
She said she had heard helicopters circling overhead earlier while police were at the complex, but had not seen the arrest. Her roommate told her that their neighbor had been arrested as a suspect in the killings of Greenlaw and O’Connor.
As terrible as the crime was, Polidoro said, it was some comfort that it appeared not to have been random. “I hope they find whoever else is involved,” she said. “They will. You can run but you can’t hide.”
From his home in Beverly on Monday night, Edward O’Connor said his wife was “distraught” by the death of their daughter.
“She was not a bad person. She was not a tough person. She was a sweetheart. And that’s not just a father talking,” he said. “She unfortunately was a follower, not a leader.”Globe correspondents Lauren Fox and Nicole Fleming contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox. Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.