Antonio Leonta McKinney of Dudley was arrested and charged with two counts of murder for the pre-dawn shootings, authorities said.
A relative said the dead woman was Peggy Lofton, 41. The toddler, whose name was not immediately known, was an 18-month-old girl.
Authorities do not have a motive for the slayings, says Maj. Terry Grant with the Wayne County Sheriff's Department.
"At this point, all I can say is they were acquaintances," Grant said. "We're not completely sure on a motive at this time or what their connection is, except that they did know one other."
The eyewitness was the dead woman's teen-age daughter, who may be romantically linked with the suspect, neighbors said. The teenager went to a neighbor's house for help.
"I just panicked because I didn't know who it was at the door," says Deveda Yelberton, the victim's neighbor, "and she said, 'Could you please call the police and help me. Somebody's in my house, and he has a gun.' So I said, 'OK, I'll call 911 and talk with them and everything, and you stay right here, I don't want you to move.'"
Police believe the suspect came to the home about 4 a.m. and entered through a door or window. The suspect was arrested about four hours later at his home.
"He did not resist arrest and was fairly cooperative and came in with no problem," Grant said.
Neighbors say the area is normally a very quiet and peaceful neighborhood. Now that their sense of security was shattered, they want to know how anyone could kill a mother and her child.
"Any time anything happens to a child, it just breaks my heart," says Violet Wise, the victim's neighbor. "There is no sense in anyone hurting a child that size."
"I have two of my own -- a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old -- and it just bothers me," says David Wise, the victim's neighbor. "When it happens in your own backyard, it just makes you feel that you are not safe anywhere."
The bodies were taken to the state Medical Examiner's office in Chapel Hill for autopsies.
McKinney is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He is due in court Monday.
From Staff and Wire Reports.
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