An 18-year-old man decapitated his mother and then walked out the front door of her house holding her head in his hand while wielding a knife in the other, authorities said.
The scene unfolded Monday afternoon in a normally quiet neighborhood of one-story homes about 30 miles east of Raleigh. Neighbor Randy Mullins was leaving his house minutes after the first deputy arrived, and he said he saw the woman's head lying in the front yard about five feet in front of the porch. The deputy appeared to have just handcuffed the suspect and seemed rattled when Mullins approached to ask if he needed help.
"You could see in his face he had a lot of concern. I'm not saying he was scared, but you could tell he was concerned," Mullins said of the deputy. Mullins then went back to his house across the street and told his 91-year-old mother to stay inside. He said a half-dozen more law enforcement vehicles arrived within minutes, and a deputy covered the woman's head.
"I couldn't believe it. Things like that don't happen," said the 59-year-old Mullins, who has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. "You can't believe somebody would do that. You hear about that, but it never happens across the street from you."
Oliver Funes Machada was charged with first-degree murder Monday after he called 911 to say he had killed his mother, according to a news release from the sheriff's office. Authorities say he was arrested without offering resistance, and his 35-year-old mother's body was found inside the home.
District Attorney Mike Waters said officials were seeking a mental evaluation of Funes-Machada. His public defender, Louisburg attorney C. Boyd Sturges III, said in a phone interview that he spoke with Funes-Machada for an hour in the Franklin County jail.
"It does appear there's some substantial mental health issues involved in this case," Sturges said. "I'm not a doctor, so I can't really elaborate. He's a pretty profoundly disturbed young man."
Waters said due to the suspect's apparent mental state, "this is something that's going to take weeks and months for us to get some answers as to why this happened."
Waters said the suspect was being transferred to Central Prison in Raleigh, and his next court appearance is scheduled for March 14.
Two young girls in the home were not hurt. A fourth child was in school when the attack occurred.
Deputies were searching the home hours after the body was discovered.
Bryan Cox, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a news release that the suspect was from Honduras and was in the country illegally. Cox said that federal records listed his name with the slightly different spelling, Machado, but his defense attorney said Machada was listed in local court records.
Neighbor Leona Smith told WRAL-TV she was still trying to come to grips with such a horrible crime happening so close by.
"It's very hurtful to know something like this can happen in your own neighborhood with such a quiet family with the standard white picket fence, trampoline, playground in the back," she said. "To see the two younger children sitting in the ditch crying, it was heartbreaking."
Mullins, the other neighbor, said the family had moved to the neighborhood sometime around June. He didn't know them well, but he and his mother said they seemed friendly.
"If they were outside, they always waved at you," said Clearsy Mullins.
On Tuesday, a group of people were at the house where the crime occurred loading a stroller and other belongings into two mini-vans. A neighbor who had stopped by to offer his condolences told a reporter that the people in the group didn't want to talk, and they left after about 20 minutes.
Randy Mullins said the suspect appeared placid as he sat handcuffed and the deputy was kneeling down to comfort the two younger children.
"He was sitting there like he didn't have a care in the world," Mullins said of Funes-Machada. "He didn't appear to be upset; he didn't appear to be crying."