TEMPE, Ariz. - A 9-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy have been found dead after a woman told a Tempe police officer she was hearing voices telling her to kill her kids, officials said Saturday morning.
Police say the woman had flagged down the officer at a police station on Apache and McClintock Drive, and officers later went to her apartment near Mill and Southern to investigate.
"Officers went to her apartment and found a 9-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy dead with "obvious signs of physical trauma," Tempe Police spokesman Sgt. Steven Carbajal said.
Law enforcement discovered a large amount of blood on the floor, with the two children covered by a blanket. Officials say there were "significant injuries" to their bodies, including lacerations, cuts and amputations "consistent with a violent attack and defensive wounds."
"Very traumatic for our officers to walk into. We’re trained to see these things," said Carbajal. "There is something elevated about that when it’s a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old. This should have never happened."
Tempe Police detained and later arrested 40-year-old Yui Inoue, who is the mother of the children. She has been arrested and accused of two counts of first-degree murder.
Officers say Inoue had blood and lacerations on her body, and there were blood stains in her car. While searching her car, police also found a meat cleaver with a 6-inch blade inside a bag of clothes with apparent bloodstains on them.
Detectives say several pieces of evidence suggested that the cleaver was the used as the murder weapon.
Police said they had been called to the same apartment earlier Saturday morning because of a domestic dispute involving a husband and wife. Carbajal said the couple was separated, and no one was arrested. The children were safe in bed at the time, and there was no apparent reason to call child welfare authorities.
"It didn’t seem like there was an immediate threat to the children," he said. "Parents, couples, argue and they have disagreements, and they have issues that come up" that often don’t require that type of intervention.
When police reached out to Inoue's husband after the children's bodies were found, he reportedly said that he had left the home at midnight because of their argument. He told police she threatened to stab him after they fought over her wanting more money for her upcoming move to Japan, officials said. The husband and wife had filed for divorce but were still living in separate rooms at the time.
"The children were asleep at the time of the argument and he did not have concerns about Inoue harming them at that time," police said in a statement.
The husband had been sleeping in the parking lot of a bank until the morning, and was not home when the murders occurred.
Inoue told police that she had woken up at 4:30 that morning with blood on her hands and arms and that her two children were already dead near the doorway of her bedroom. She reportedly said she took a bath before she drove herself to the police station.
"Inoue did not believe that she had killed the children, but said that she could not remember," police said.
Carbajal called it a "tragic incident."
"It’s just so unfortunate that a 9- and 7-year-old that rely on their parents, especially their mother, to really care after them could have been involved in something this tragic," Carbajal said in an interview.
The officers who found the children were also receiving counseling.
"A lot of the officers on that call have children, and even the ones that don’t, we see a lot of tragedy over the course of our career. But you can’t prepare yourself for something like that," Carbajal said. "The aftermath is really one of the hardest things to deal with."
The officers who discovered the dead children were not the same ones who were at the apartment just after midnight on the domestic dispute call. The father was not at the apartment when officers returned to find the children.
Meanwhile, neighbors say it's not uncommon to see police in the apartment complex, but it was still shocking to learn about what happened.
"We’ve been in shock all morning. We’ve been talking to our neighbors and they are just – we are all in shock," said Amanda Christoff.
"I don't understand. This is not right. These are children! Little kids!" said Julia Forshee.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
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