In what neighbors called a “brutal” slaying, four people — including a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old — were stabbed Sunday morning in Marrero in what officials said was an apparent murder-suicide.
The incident shook neighbors in an area in Jefferson Parish generally known as quiet and safe.
The bodies of David Mata, 46, and Kelli Mata, 40, were found by the woman’s 18-year-old daughter, Sheriff Newell Normand told reporters outside the home in the 4800 block of Brandi Street. The daughter had just returned home from a hunting trip when she made the horrific discovery in the living room.
The teenager immediately fled and called 911.
First responders soon found the parents’ bodies and then the bloodied bodies of the couple’s two small sons, 2-year-old Liam and 4-year-old Caden, in separate bedrooms.
“We found the mother and stepfather as well as their two children,” Normand said. “The 4-year-old and 2-year-old had been stabbed to death. The mom had been stabbed to death.”
In a later news release, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato said David Mata had also suffered stab wounds but didn’t say exactly how he had killed himself. Normand said that part of the case, as well as motive, is still being investigated.
As detectives continued their work nearby, family members gathered on the sidewalk outside the yellow crime tape. Several women were crying, as was the sobbing teenager who made the initial discovery. One family friend sat in the middle of the sidewalk, cradling a young baby.
As the scene grew more crowded, officials periodically redirected members of the press and public away from the grieving family.
“Obviously, the family members here at the scene are distraught over the news,” Normand said,
Shocked neighbors described a “quiet” family living in a safe, picturesque area of Marrero. The Matas were new to the area, the neighbors said, and mostly kept to themselves but never showed signs of violence.
The couple’s Facebook pages show more of the same. Kelli Mata, whose maiden name was Fabre, proudly posted a photo of two young boys dressed in superhero Halloween costumes.
David Mata, whose Facebook profile said he was from Spain, had shared photos of the family, too. The four had costumed as Minions, the small yellow cartoon characters, for the Audubon Zoo’s annual “Boo at the Zoo” event.
David Mata also shared a photograph of him holding his wife and smiling, apparently at a restaurant. The two had been married since 2012.
Alexander Herbert, 56, a neighbor who has lived in the area for 30 years, described David Mata as “quiet” and said he was always doing upkeep in the yard. “He kept it very manicured,” Herbert said.
“I’ve just seen them from passing,” he added. “But it looked like it was a complete family to me.”
Legal records, however, shine some light on what appeared to be a rocky past for the husband and father.
At the scene, Fortunato told reporters that David Mata had been arrested for drug possession and a domestic disturbance against his wife.
Arrest records confirmed a rocky path that began in 2004, when he got in trouble with law enforcement for having anabolic steroids. That year, Mata pleaded guilty to possession of the drugs, records show. He received a suspended prison sentence and was placed on probation for three years.
Then, in 2009, his then-wife filed for divorce two days before Christmas. Her divorce papers claimed Mata had committed adultery and ultimately abandoned his wife for Kelli Fabre.
It would be years before the divorce was granted. Mata ultimately ended up marrying Fabre, but judicial records hint that even before that happened, trouble may have been looming.
In 2010, Mata was accused of assaulting Fabre in a home in Jefferson Parish. The charge was simple assault. He pleaded guilty and was placed on inactive probation for a year.
Two years later, the couple got married.
Fortunato said the family had lived at the address in Marrero for six months.
Glenn Illg, a 68-year-old neighbor who bought his house two years ago, stood in front of their house in shock Sunday.
“That’s a brutal way to go,” he said about the stabbing deaths. “When we bought the house, we didn’t expect something like this to happen. It’s usually a pretty nice neighborhood. But you never know, right?
“It’s a shame to happen to little ones so young,” he said.