TAUNTON (CBS) – Investigators said Wednesday they are struggling to find a motive in a deadly stabbing rampage in Taunton, but the attacker’s family told WBZ-TV he had psychiatric issues and the attacks could have been prevented.
Arthur DaRosa, 28, of Taunton, was shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy Tuesday evening at the Silver City Galleria mall.
Investigators say he killed two people and hurt five more in a horrific chain of events that ended with his death.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn identified the slain victims as Taunton residents George Heath, 56, and Patricia Slavin, 80.
Quinn said there was no indication that DaRosa knew any of the people he attacked and that the rampage appeared to be random.
Quinn said it all began just after 6 p.m. Tuesday when DaRosa left his child’s soccer practice at a field on Myricks Street in a Honda Accord. The car slammed into a parked Ford Ranger pickup and, according to investigators, DaRosa got out and began to attempt to enter various homes on Myricks Street.
Around 6:30 p.m. he was able to get into a house where Patricia Slavin and her daughter Kathleen were having dinner.
“Once inside the home, DaRosa stabbed both women and ran from the residence,” Quinn said.
Both were rushed to Morton Hospital, where one of them, 80-year-old Slavin, died. Her daughter was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where she was in serious condition Wednesday.
DaRosa then tried to stop drivers on the street and take another car, according to Quinn, but he failed, so he hopped back in the Honda and drove about three miles to the Silver City Galleria mall, where he crashed it into the front door of the Macy’s department store around 6:40 p.m.
He got out of the car, assaulted at least three women inside Macy’s, according to investigators, and then went to a Bertucci’s Italian restaurant inside the mall.
“Once inside the restaurant, DaRosa armed himself with a knife from the restaurant and attacked a waitress,” Quinn said.
The waitress, 26-year-old Sheenah Savoy, was stabbed multiple times.
But 56-year-old George Heath, who was having dinner at Bertucci’s with his wife, jumped in to stop DaRosa.
“Mr. Heath was then stabbed in the head and mortally wounded,” Quinn said.
Another man having dinner in the restaurant, off-duty Plymouth County Deputy Sheriff James Creed, then approached DaRosa, showed him his badge and ordered him several times to drop the knife.
“When DaRosa refused to comply, Deputy Creed shot him once in the abdomen,” Quinn said.
DaRosa was taken to Charlton Memorial Hospital, where he died at 8 p.m.
Heath and Savoy were rushed to Morton Hospital where Heath passed away. Savoy was later med-flighted to Rhode Island Hospital where she was in serious condition Wednesday.
Heath was a visual design teacher at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School for the past four years.
“Mr. Heath was a tremendous educator with a great passion for teaching; he was influential in sparking creativity and a love of learning in all of his students,” Superintendent James O’Brien said in a statement.
Quinn said three people were hurt in the attack in Macy’s, but none of them were stabbed.
He praised the heroic actions of both Heath and Creed.
“(Heath) saw the waitress being stabbed, and without concern for his safety he intervened and quite possibly saved her life and the lives of others, including his own wife. This shows extraordinary character and courage that tragically cost him his own life,” Quinn said.
“(Creed) reacted in a professional but heroic manner by taking the only course of conduct that was available to him at that time. He prevented further carnage from occurring with his actions.”
“My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people impacted by this horrendous event, especially the victims, the family members of the deceased and injured, along with members of the community,” the D.A. told reporters.
DaRosa’s father and sister also offered their condolences to the victims.
They told WBZ-TV DaRosa was admitted to Morton Hospital on Monday because he was having suicidal thoughts. He was released early Tuesday morning, according to the family, something they believe should not have happened.
“He was a good father,” said cousin Vinnie DaRosa. “I’m sorry about the victims, and I don’t know what happened, nobody knows what happened, only God knows what happened.”
The father and sister said DaRosa suffered from psychiatric issues in the past and that he refused to take medication. He had two children.
DaRosa had a history of arrests, according to court records. He was charged with assault and battery and violating a restraining order in 2007. The next year he faced drug, assault and shoplifting charges. In 2009 he was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
While the motive in Tuesday’s attacks remains a mystery, State Police said there was no indication of terrorism.
Carl Bachman, senior vice president of operations for Bertucci’s, released this statement Wednesday: “Right now our thoughts are with the victims and their families of this tragedy. We are working with law enforcement officials to help in the investigation. We are doing everything we can for our employees during this difficult time.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports