Five-year-old Tia Hernlen was awakened by gunshots early Monday morning. All alone in her Florida home, she discovered her dying parents.
Here is the text of the 911 call.
Tia: I think they're dead.
Operator: What do you mean, sweetheart?
Tia: I don't know.
Operator: OK, your daddy's on the floor. How old are you?
Tia: I'm 5 years old and I have a dog in a house.
Operator: OK, baby, OK. Let me get someone right over to you. Did you, did you go in your mommy and daddy's room?
Tia: Uh-huh, and there is blood.
Operator: All over the place?
Tia: Not all over. There's blood on the plant and blood on the floor.
A Volusia County man who wrongly believed a couple had reported him for growing marijuana and possessing steroids broke into their house and fatally shot the two before killing himself, police said.
The second victim, 29-year-old Aeneas Hernlen, died at a Daytona Beach hospital on Tuesday. His wife, Julie Hernlen, 31, was killed Monday.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson tells The Early Show he believes the girl is doing well, considering the situation. She was awakened by gunshots shortly before 3 a.m.
"To the best of my knowledge, for a 5-year-old, she's doing pretty well," Sheriff Johnson" says. "We're worried about long-term effects on the little girl, naturally. At 5 years old, the meaning of death sometimes doesn't really sink in, but we are concerned for her future welfare."
It was very impressive, he notes, how she handled the situation.
"She was very composed for a 5-year-old," he notes. "The 911 tape was absolutely amazing. All of the information she was able to give. How she was able to handle herself, very smart little girl."
The alleged killer, David Edward Johnson, 33, committed suicide at his home later that day, Volusia County sheriff's investigators said. No suicide note was found.
Authorities said Johnson shot the Hernlens because he believed the couple had turned him into law enforcement in November.
"We don't know what forced him to snap," Sheriff Ben Johnson says, "He had the feeling that the Hernlens turned him in for an indoor marijuana-grown operation, which was not true. Someone called in a burglary in progress at his home. He was putting the focus of his blame on the Hernlens and he'd made the threat in the past, and carried them out."
In January, the Hernlens tried to get an injunction against Johnson, claiming he drove in front of their home and made threats.
But the judge assigned the case denied the request, saying "no violence was alleged and it was hard to prove stalking with the allegations" presented, according to court papers.
Sheriff Ben Johnson notes, "The restraining order was put in, but you run into a problem when someone is determined they'll do something like this. The only way to stop them is to keep them in jail. There's no way possible the judge could have kept him in jail. Very seldom do you find someone this determined to take this action. Don't know, in a case like this, how you would stop it. In any given day, we have 3,600 to 3,700 restraining orders in effect. You can't stay on top of somebody all of the time, when rarely somebody would take this kind of action."
Circuit Judge Richard Graham said, "Looking back on it, I would have liked to have done it differently…But you review each case on a case-by-case basis."
Tia is with family now, Sheriff Ben Johnson notes.
Here is another excerpt from the 911 conversation, which went on for about three minutes:
Operator: Oh, my goodness, and you have your little doggie with
Child: And three cats.
Operator: And three cats too?
Child: Three cats and one dog.
Operator: OK, are you the the only one there besides mommy and
Child: Well, I said "Mommy" and "Daddy" and they didn't even
Operator: OK, OK, what I want you to do, honey, I want you to
stay on the phone with me. What is your name?
Child: (tells operator her name)
Operator: Oh, that is a very pretty name.
Child: (blocked out)
Operator: Oh, I'm so sorry, that is a beautiful name. What is
your doggie's name?
Operator: OK, and what made you wake up tonight?
Child: There was, I think I heard a gunshot.
Operator: You heard a gun?
Child: Yes, and I see a bullet lying on the floor. I think it's
Operator: Who has a gun in the house?
Child: I don't see a gun but I'm scared.
Operator: Oh sweetheart! . . . I will not let anything happen to
Child: Can you send a deputy down here?
Operator: I promise I will . . . and you're only 5 years old?
Operator: You are so smart for 5 years old. Wow! . . . are you
off from school this week?
Child: Um, no, I go to school next year.
Operator: You do? Oh my gosh, you're not even in kindergarten
Operator: Oh, what's your doggie's name?
Operator: Lizzah, what kind of doggie is she?
Child: She's a Lab.
Operator: Oh my God, I love those. Those are so beautiful. Is
she a black Lab or is she a yellow Lab?
Child: A black Lab.
Operator: Oh, you are so smart.
Child: With, um, brown eyes.
Operator: Oh my goodness, how old is she?
Child: She is like 3 years old, or, 2 years old, I don't really
Operator: Wow! You can remember for a really long time.
Operator: Oh my goodness. Was there anybody else in the house
tonight besides you and mommy and daddy tonight? Like an uncle or
Child: No, there's no robber in the house.
Operator: OK, well, I didn't think there would be a robber,
sweetheart. Did you have anybody staying over the night with you
Child: Nnn- nnn
Operator: OK. So and the doors are all locked? And everything
like that . . . Where are you in the house?
Child: Well, I was in my room sleeping till I heard a noise shot
and it woke me up.
Operator: Oh my goodness. Uh, what part of the house are you in
Child: I'm in the one, it's yellow, all yellow house, of green,
green with it, a little bit of green, and a pink door.
Operator: Oh my goodness, that sounds really cool. Did you pick
out the pink door?
Child: Um, no, my mom picked out the door.
Operator: Look, I bet you that is beautiful. Does mommy and
daddy have a car in the driveway?
Child: Mmm-hmm, two cars.
Operator: Two cars? What kind of cars do they have?
Child: Umm, my mom has a Toyota
Operator: What color is that Toyota?
Operator: Is it dark, or grey, or silver?
Child: It's um red.
Operator: Red? OK, what kind of car does daddy have?
Child: He has a Jeep. It's black and . . .
Operator: OK, listen to me (name). Is your phone the type that
you can take with you and walk around?
Child: Um, this . . .
Operator: There should be an officer at your front door. I need
for you to take your phone with you and walk over to the door and open it for me, OK? And I will stay on the phone with you, OK?