SIOUX CITY, IA — A man who said he cast “a spell that had gone bad” was charged with stabbing and strangling his two young stepdaughters, police said Tuesday.
Investigators were still trying to piece together what happened Sunday, when authorities responded to a fire at the family’s home and found the girls’ bodies in an upstairs bedroom, Lt. Marti Reilly said.
“The sequence of events is unknown,” he said.
Lawrence Douglas Harris Sr. told police he “had been casting a spell that had gone bad, and that the spell could have had severe consequences,” according to court documents. No other details were released, including Harris’s age.
The blaze, which caused only minor damage, remained under investigation, Reilly said.
The girls’ mother was at work when the fire occurred, Reilly said. Two other children, Lawrence Harris’ son and stepson, were not at home at the time, relatives said.
Harris was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kendra Suing, 10, and her sister, Alysha Suing, 8, police said.
He remained in the Woodbury County jail Tuesday and was scheduled to be arraigned next week. It was not immediately known whether he had an attorney.
Reilly said autopsy results wouldn’t be available for several days, and he would not release other details about how the girls were killed.
Relatives said they knew little about the girls’ stepfather but had no reason to believe he was capable of hurting the children.
“Not in my wildest dreams, anything like this could’ve happened,” said Richard Stroman of Sioux City, the girls’ great-uncle.
The girls’ uncle, Dean Stroman of Sioux City, said he would often go to a park with the girls, take them to the movies and stay with them for sleepovers. Kendra especially enjoyed writing and Alysha would often draw.
He last saw them on Christmas Day.
“They were loving kids. Very good, loved life, never wanted to be separated, go-getters,” Stroman said. “They just lived day by day, every day to the fullest.”
Dean Stroman said his sister, Marla Harris, who works with mentally disabled people at a care center, was staying with the girls’ mother in Sioux City.
“She’s pretty upset, pretty down,” he said.