BELLEVILLE — Police identified a woman stabbed to death late Monday night during a home invasion at 607 E. McKinley St.
Police said the victims were targeted, but would not comment on their relationship to the attackers. Neighbors said the victim and her husband recently split, and court records showed there was a restraining order and divorce petition.
Le'Nae S. Cole, 23, of Belleville, was found dead at the scene of the home invasion, police said.
A man, who suffered injuries during the home invasion, led police to the home. He was taken to a St. Louis hospital for treatment, police said. Both victims were stabbed.
Police said two young girls in the home were not injured, and a man found near the home was taken into custody. Another person of interest was apprehended later Tuesday morning.
"Detectives believe that this residence was targeted by the suspects, and was not a random attack," a police spokesman said in a news release Tuesday afternoon. "Both victims in this case suffered from numerous stab wounds as a result of this attack.
"The male victim remains in a St. Louis area hospital and his information will not be released."
Neighbor Jerry Southers said his teenage son woke him up after 11 p.m. Monday. "He said: 'Dad, somebody's in the back. They're bleeding.' I didn't know what to think, so I came outside and looked around and I didn't see anything, then I heard her scream. It sounded like a television, real loud. It was weird."
Southers spotted the bleeding man in his backyard and the man stumbled uphill to a neighbor's property, then fell onto a parked car. Southers said the bleeding man pointed out the house on East McKinley and told police a woman needed help.
Southers also said he saw Le'Nae Cole and her estranged husband Sunday afternoon, and they were getting along well.
Neighbor Maria Johnson said she saw the car of the estranged husband, John Cole, in her backyard after the stabbings. She said marital problems led to a split in early April and a restraining order in mid-April.
She said she knows John Cole well -- he called her "mom" -- and she said he is nice, sweet, soft-spoken, a good father and was very much in love with Le'Nae Cole.
"He did the best he could with what he had," Johnson said of the estranged husband.
She awoke late Monday to flashing blue lights and crime scene tape outside. She said her heart dropped when she heard the news.
Le'Nae Cole obtained an emergency order of protection covering her and the couple's two daughters April 20 after stating her husband, John Cole, 23, of Belleville, brutalized and restrained her.
She said that on April 12 he choked her and tied her to a chair for two hours, then grabbed her hair and dragged her around their home. He choked her again so hard that she lost control of herself.
She said on April 19 he wrestled her phone away as she was calling for help from her car and he again put her in a choke hold. He fled before Belleville police arrived.
Their daughters, ages 1 and 4, were present during both attacks, she stated.
She filed for divorce May 21, court records show.
John Cole's record in St. Clair County includes one misdemeanor charge filed in February for resisting a police officer in Belleville. The case is pending.
Other neighbors said they were shocked at the violence in their neighborhood. They said the area is diverse, quiet and a place where children are always outside playing.
Police were able to identify a second person of interest to question in connection with the double stabbing. That person was found Tuesday morning in the area of 15th and Baugh streets in East St. Louis, Belleville Police Capt. John Moody said.
That person was questioned at the police department Tuesday.
Moody said the man, whom they found in the street when officers arrived at 11:33 p.m., led them to the home where they found the female victim's lifeless body.
The children were released to relatives, Moody said.
Police have not identified the suspects in the crime.
Moody said the home invasion was not a random act.
"The early stages of our investigation indicate that the victim was targeted," he said.
Moody said police did not know all the details that led to the home invasion.
"We're in the extremely early stages of our investigation. We know that this was not a random act. The early stages of the investigation indicate that the female victim was familiar with the male subject who was taken into custody," Moody said.
Moody declined to comment on the weapon or whether police recovered it.
"We have an open investigation in progress at this time," he said.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 239-2503.