The girl made her way in frigid air Tuesday night from her northeast Omaha house to report the slaughter two doors down.
“They shot my family,” she told a neighbor.
Indeed in minutes, police would find three people shot dead inside a house near 37th and Spaulding Streets.
John W. Dalton Jr., 46, was being sought as a person of interest, said Omaha Police Capt. Thomas Shaffer. Dalton owns the home where the killings occurred and, according to Shaffer, is related to one or more of the victims.
Police had not released the victims’ names late Tuesday, and it was not clear whether they were adults or children.
Dalton previously served more than 11 years in prison for killing his then-wife, Shannon Dalton, in 1998. He was released from the Nebraska prison system in 2010.
A plea bargain in that case spared him a potential life sentence.
Tuesday night was bitterly cold as detectives investigated the killings. The snow crunched beneath the officers’ feet and their breaths fogged their faces. A police helicopter circled above.
Slowly people from around the area stood in ones and twos near the crime tape. A man who believed he was related to the victims screamed into a phone in the street, “Is my sister dead?” He threatened to kill someone and then left.
Within a few hours, friends and relatives of the victims had begun gathering at the nearby St. Mark Baptist Church, 3616 Spaulding St., to grieve and comfort each other.
Tuesday night’s killings were reported at 7:51 p.m. at 3912 N. 37th St., which is about two blocks south of Ames Avenue and near North High School.
The killings bring to 30 the number of people slain in homicides in the city this year. It was the first time this year that more than one person was slain at the same time. And it was the first triple homicide in Omaha since January 2015, when three people were shot to death at 34th and Parker Streets.
In the September 1998 killing of his 22-year-old wife, Dalton initially faced a second-degree murder charge. The couple had married five years earlier.
The couple’s three children, who were 6, 5 and 3 at the time, were at their home at 3489 Ruggles St. at the time. They heard, but did not see the shooting.
Shannon Dalton’s body was found on the floor of the living room at the couple’s home. After the slaying, Dalton fled in his wife’s car. He was stopped a few days later in Tennessee for a traffic violation and returned to Omaha to face charges.
Police on Tuesday night said Dalton may be driving a black 2015 GMC Terrain with Nebraska license plate UKB787, or a red 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe with Nebraska license plate VRD559.
If someone knows where Dalton is, he or she should call 911.
Anyone with information on the homicides should call a detective at 402-444-5656, police said. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 402-444-7867 or omahacrimestoppers.org.
Sign up for World-Herald news alerts
Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.