Family attacked in Illinois stabbing spree praises son and dog for saving their lives

ROCKFORD, Ill. — A mother who was injured in an Illinois stabbing spree Wednesday said that if it wasn’t for her son, who was also attacked, she and her daughter might not have survived after the attacker entered their home.

Darlene Weber and her children, Jacob Vollman, 21, and Cathy Gilfillan, 23, described the assault. Christian Soto is accused of going on a rampage Wednesday afternoon, ultimately killing four people and injuring seven others, including Weber and her kids.

"I mean, this is, like, my knight in shining armor, and he’s my son. It was like God sent him to me and sent me a gift in a small package and I was blessed with that," Weber, 46, said in an interview Thursday.

"I’m not even kidding. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I’d be standing here talking to you right now," she said of her son. "I really don’t. It was frightening."

Soto was arrested on charges of murder, attempted murder and home invasion.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney J. Hanley said Soto admitted to the crimes and said he had taken marijuana he believed was "laced with an unknown narcotic" before the attacks at multiple locations in Rockford and an area of Winnebago County shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday, officials said.

The attack

Weber said she and her two kids — all of whom have visible injuries — were home Wednesday afternoon when she took her pit bull, Brandy, out the back door and heard a man say "hey" to her before he stabbed her in the face.

animal pet dog pit bull pitbull (Courtesy Darlene Weber)
animal pet dog pit bull pitbull (Courtesy Darlene Weber)

As she crawled through the house screaming for Vollman to help her, she said, Brandy jumped on and bit the man, giving her enough time to escape.

“It all happened like such a blink of an eye,” Weber said. “Remembering back, it was almost like he literally tried to kill me.”

She said Vollman then approached the man as she scrambled to find her phone and call 911.

Vollman said he went to find his mom, who was screaming for help, "and I just turn my head, and he’s standing, like, right there. And he literally looks at me and says, 'Come here,' and starts charging at me, and then he swings on me a couple of times." He added that he fought the man "head on."

He said he was hit with a metal ring around the bottom of the knife but was not stabbed with the blade.

After a couple of minutes of fighting with Vollman, the attacker turned his attention to Gilfillan, who had just awakened at 1 p.m. to screams of "help, help" and "get out of my house, you shouldn't be here," she said.

She said she ran upstairs, where she found her brother "boxing" with the man. At first she thought it might have been one of her brother’s friends; then, she said, the man turned toward her, charged at her and "clocked me one" before she fell into the fetal position.

She said he was about to hit her again when her brother began "waling on him" with a syrup bottle.

Gilfillan said the attacker then "dipped" out the back door, at which point police arrived.

"If it wasn't for him," she said, referring to Vollman, "me and mom would not be here."

'The devil incarnate'

Vollman said the attacker "had the world's biggest smile on his face" when he approached him in the home, and Gilfillan said his eyes looked totally black.

"He had no brown in his eyes. It was straight pupil, like he was on drugs or something," Gilfillan said.

Weber said, "He looked like the devil incarnate."

The three survivors said the man was covered in blood when he arrived at their home, including his hands, sweater and pants.

"It's like a horror movie," Weber said.

The family, who just moved to the neighborhood in October, said they no longer feel safe there. But Weber said she is "not going to let somebody like that scare me from ... having a tranquil life with my family."

Weber said she "broke down" in the aftermath of the assault, because "I felt kind of guilty that we were survivors and ... you had these innocent people that were taken from their families."

The rampage also claimed the lives of Soto's friend Jacob Schupbach, 23; his friend's mother, Ramona Schupbach, 63; a mailman doing his job, Jay Larson; and Jenna Newcomb, 15, who died saving her sister.

Soto told police that he went to Jacob Schupbach's house Wednesday afternoon to smoke marijuana and that he thinks it was laced, causing him to become paranoid, Hanley, the state’s attorney, told reporters.

Soto "said he retrieved a knife from the kitchen at Jacob’s house and proceeded to stab Jacob and Ramona to death,” Hanley said.

Weber said: "I can’t even wrap my head around what happened yesterday. It’s so hard to just sit here and just talk about it or to even replay it. I just can’t get that picture of him standing there and saying 'hey' to me and then the reach. I can only imagine what everyone else went through."

Maggie Vespa reported from Rockford and Rebecca Cohen reported from New York.

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