DEERFIELD BEACH — William De Jesus knocked on a stranger's door Thursday night, argued with the 76-year-old Canadian man who answered, then fatally shot him in the chest and head when the man, who spoke no English, didn't hand over a cellphone.
The random killing of snowbird Ovila Plante in front of his 35-foot motor home at the Highland Woods RV park was the beginning of a six-hour nightmare. It ultimately left De Jesus and his son dead; his wife and another son seriously injured, all at De Jesus' hand.
Frantic after killing Plante, De Jesus, of Port Orange, grabbed a phone belonging to Plante's girlfriend, Pierrette Beauchemin, whom he was now holding hostage, and tried to call 911.
Instead, De Jesus, 41, hit a button and was connected to the woman's daughter. Joanne Beauchemin, 49, of Pompano Beach, begged De Jesus not to harm her mother, 70.
"If your mom does whatever I say, I'm not going to hurt her," she recalled him saying.
Pierrette Beauchemin ran out of the RV unharmed as a SWAT team waited outside. Hours later, De Jesus stabbed his two children and his wife before fatally stabbing himself, the Broward Sheriff's Office said.
One of the children, Jeshiah, 9, was already dead when the SWAT team entered the RV shortly after 12:30 a.m. Friday. De Jesus' wife, Deanna, 37, and their other child, Samson, 7, were recovering at North Broward Medical Center on Friday.
They are expected to survive, Broward Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal said.
The bizarre attack stunned neighborhood residents, many of whom, like Beauchemin and Plante, are Canadian snowbirds.
"Some folks were scared, and we reassured them it was random and could have happened anywhere," said Deerfield Beach Mayor Peggy Noland, who visited with the park's residents Friday afternoon. "Three streets south it could have been Pompano, three streets north it could have been Boca. I don't know if this guy even knew where he was."
Deanna De Jesus' mother, Janet Evans, said Friday that she knew her son-in-law was capable of violence, and she knew she would someday get a phone call with bad news about her daughter, whom she has not seen in three years.
Evans was relieved to learn her daughter was alive, but choked with grief to learn that Jeshiah, who was autistic, had died.
"I knew one day he was either going to kill her or kill the children and himself," Evans said of De Jesus. "He's evil. He's an evil man. He was so cruel and so abusive to my daughter, but she kept going back to him. She would call and ask us to help get her away from him, but she always went back."
The only consolation, Evans said, was that De Jesus can never hurt his daughter again.
"This was initially just a bizarre and senseless crime," sheriff's spokeswoman Dani Moschella said of the way the standoff unfolded. "And over the course of the evening, it became more horrific."
About 6:20 p.m. Thursday, De Jesus drove his red Mustang into the RV park, accompanied by his wife and sons.
De Jesus approached the RV at Lot 61, occupied by Plante and Beauchemin. De Jesus and his family did not know the couple, officials said.
It's still unclear whether officials know where the De Jesus family was headed, or why they stopped in Deerfield Beach.
"He could have knocked on any door," said Michel Emard, 57, who has come to Highland Woods for two years. "Everyone is telling themselves, 'It could have happened to me.'"
Joanne Beauchemin said De Jesus wanted to use Plante's phone to call 911. Although Plante did not understand what De Jesus was asking, Beauchemin's mother did.
According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, De Jesus began to yell, and Plante pushed him away. That's when De Jesus pulled out a revolver and shot Plante in the chest. Plante fell to the pavement, and De Jesus fired a second shot. This one, officials said, struck Plante in the head.
Joanne Beauchemin teared up Friday as she recalled her mother's plea on the phone while De Jesus held her hostage. "She said, 'This is real. He has a gun to my head and a knife to my throat,'" Beauchemin said.
At one point, the attacker moved his family and Pierrette Beauchemin into the RV's bedroom and forced them to lie down at gunpoint.
The attacker held down Beauchemin, and he kissed one of his sons, Beauchemin's daughter said.
As he moved to kiss his other son, Pierrette Beauchemin broke free, ran barefoot from the RV and authorities grabbed her by the arm as she exited, the daughter said.
"It's just so tragic and horrific when you think about the loss of life for seemingly no reason," Moschella said. "These two little boys must have been so frightened. It must have been a nightmare for them."
Sheryl Schwab, executive director of programs & services for Women in Distress, said the domestic violence center will offer assistance to Deanna De Jesus as she recovers.
Sun-Sentinel Staff Writer Linda Trischitta and Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
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