GREENVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) --It didn't take long for news to reach neighbors of a Greenville community that 32-year-old Garlette Howard and her three daughters -- ages 6, 7, and 11, were found dead in their home.
Monday afternoon, Howard's co-workers contacted the Greenville Police Department after Howard did not show up for work. When police arrived to Howard's home in the 1100 block of Grovemont Drive, they did not see her car in her assigned parking spot. This led police to believe there was nothing suspicious, and no justification to enter the home.
But more than 24 hours later, out-of-state family members contacted Greenville police after the suspect, 39-year-old Dibon Toone made concerning remarks about the welfare of Howard and the three children.
Howard and Toone had been in a relationship, and he appears to have been living with the victims, Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said. Holtzman said the two younger girls were Toone's daughters.
"As little girls, you should be able to trust your father - to look to him for advice, and know he will always be there to protect you. Dibon Toone betrayed that trust, and as a result, these little girls and their mother paid the ultimate price," the police department said in a news release.
GPD, along with assistance from U.S. Marshals and the State Bureau of Investigations contacted the Richmond (Va.) Police Department about the possibility of Toone being in their jurisdiction, and shortly before midnight, Richmond PD arrested Toone with the help of K-9 units.
Toone's arrest came about after Richmond police were alerted to a stolen car identified by North Carolina investigators, said Richmond Police spokesman James Mercante. Greenville Police say Toone was driving Howard's work-issued car.
In a Wednesday press conference, Greenville mayor Allen Thomas encouraged citizens to contact the police if they suspect anyone to be involved with domestic violence.
"If you could have gone back three days ago and you could have saved three young children's lives, would you have done it?" asked Thomas as he addressed reporters. "That's a question you have to ask yourselves as a member of this community. As a family member, has anyone who had any inkling that something may have happened or would happen? That's the message we need to take from this today."
Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman delivered a similar message.
"This type of event can really shake a community. But it can also bring us together around a common cause - care for one another to do our part," Holtzman said.
Neighbors in the subdivision where Howard lived say the community is quiet and this type of violence never happens. Gwendolyn Yarrell, who lives near Howard, said she would see her and the kids often, but never had any indication anything was wrong.
Now that Greenville police are referring to the case as a domestic homicide, Yarrell says she's going to stay more vigilant.
"I'll be more concerned about my neighbors. You know if I see anything going on, I will report it to the police," she told ABC11. "Because I don't want anything else to ever happen like this again in this neighborhood. So I'll be more watchful."
Police have reason to believe Howard was deceased for several days when her and her children were found Tuesday.
Another neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, exclusively told ABC11 that she knocked on Howard's door on Monday afternoon for a neighborhood inquiry and nobody answered the door. Less than an hour later, the neighbor says she saw a man casually come out of the house. She's unsure of that man's identity.
She also says Howard's LabCorp work-issued Chevy Equinox was parked in the assigned parking spot.
"I'm not glad that someone was murdered, but I am glad that it wasn't random, because I live alone and what if it could have been me?" she said.
Toone is currently being held on one murder charge and is awaiting extradition to Greenville.
GPD will more than likely update the murder charges once the names, social security numbers, and dates of birth for the three children have been verified.
Greenville police have also said they are aware of reports citizens have made to the media about an altercation between Toone and Howard in the days leading up to the discovery, but no calls were made to police. And the couple had no history of documented domestic violence.
In July, Greenville police were dispatched to the Grovemont home after learning Toone attempted suicide. During the home visit, police reports confirm Toone did not intend to hurt nor had not hurt anybody else in the home. He was taken to Vidant Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation.
Toone's previous criminal history includes the unauthorized use of Howard's car and larceny charges dating to May 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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