State News

Catawba deputies look for suspect in quadruple homicide

Authorities are trying to compile an accurate description of a man suspected of killing a mother and her three children in their North Carolina home.

Posted Updated

MIKE BAKER (Associated Press Writer)
CONOVER, N.C. — Authorities stopped morning commuters Friday in hopes of getting a better description of a man suspected in the slayings of a mother and her three children in their western North Carolina home.

Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman said Friday that deputies are stopping commuters in the neighborhood to ask if anyone saw the suspicious man lingering near the house before the family was found dead Thursday morning.

Deputies have received varying descriptions – different races, ages, heights and weights – of the man seen near the house Thursday morning, Huffman said. Authorities were trying to weed out inaccurate information to produce the best details of the suspect, which they hoped to release later Friday.

"We're just grabbing at straws right now, but the information is coming in very good – both materially and verbally," Huffman said. "It's going to take a while, it looks like, but the things you do in a case like this in the first 48 hours (are) the key to how your case is going to be built."

WRAL's sister station, WBTV, reports that family members said the victims were Lisa Saephan and her children: Cody Saechao, 3; Pauline Schae, 17; and Melanie Saephan, 20.

 Deputies were processing a gun found in the bushes nearby and two stolen vehicles that were found Thursday still running, one near the home and one near the school of one of the victims.

According to the Catawba County Sheriff's Office, a teen picked up Pauline for a ride to Bunker Hill High School. As they left the neighborhood, the driver said she had noticed a man lurking near some bushes outside the home. Pauline asked the driver to return so she could investigate, officials said.

The teen told investigators that an unidentified man attacked Pauline at the front door and pulled her inside. The teen driver was scared, drove away and called 911, officials said.

Huffman said he believes the house was targeted when the father, Brian Tzeo, was away at work at International Paper in Statesville.

"My personal opinion is that this was a selected situation. It was not random," Huffman said. "They did not arbitrarily pick that house. They knew who lived there and what the situation was, because the father had gone to work in another county, apparently. The person apparently knew the pattern, if you will, that the three women and the little child would be there."

WBTV reports that Lisa Saephan worked the second shift at Tyson's and that Melanie Saephan was studying health management at Catawba Valley Community College.

Copyright 2024 by and the Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.