In the last few months, neighbors and friends of Paul and Yetumbe Wanyoike noticed an increasingly uncomfortable dynamic between the pair.
The police came to their apartment in Woodlyn, Delaware County, at least five times since the fall, neighbors say.
Yetumbe's daughter, Miracle, 4, told her babysitter, Diana Land, "Paul threw a cup and hit my mommy on her head," said neighbor Rebecca Benales, 35, who once cared for Miracle and her younger sister.
Miracle also said her stepfather had kicked Yetumbe in the stomach and poured juice on her mother and the child.
The situation clearly worsened on Sunday when Yetumbe, 24, and her children returned home from a weekend in Brooklyn where she had visited family to celebrate the tot's birthday.
Once she was home, Paul Wanyoike, 34, is believed to have taken a clawhammer and hit Yetumbe's head numerous times, said Capt. Charles Howley of the Ridley Township Police Department.
Wanyoike, an immigrant from Kenya, called 911 at 4:20 p.m. and said, "She's dead. I did it. I hit her over the head."
Then, Miracle got on the phone with the dispatcher and said, " 'My parents are dying. My daddy hit my mommy,' " said Howley.
Yetumbe Wanyoike, a Ugandan native, was taken to the Crozer-Chester Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.
When police arrived at 4:25 p.m., they found Paul Wanyoike stricken in the bathroom with his mouth foaming with a Clorox bleach bottle nearby. Also found were an empty prescription-pill bottle and cold-remedy items.
"The guy drank Clorox and took every pill in the house," Howley said.
The captain said he did not know what might have prompted the attack. Howley declined to say whether police had been called to the house or if Paul Wanyoike had been arrested before.
Wanyoike was arraigned and charged with first-degree murder, aggravated assault, making terroristic threats and other crimes, Howley said.
Howley said that officials at the George Hill Correctional Facility, formerly called Delaware County Prison, had custody of Wanyoike but he was unaware of where the suspect was last night.
The girls are now with Yetumbe's family in Brooklyn.
Land, the family's babysitter, was allowed into the crime scene, and said her former experience in an emergency room didn't prepare her for the walk-through. The house was in disarray. The bags from the trip to New York were still packed, she said.
"The amount of blood in the kitchen . . . ," she said, without completing her thought. "She probably tried to drag herself across the linoleum floor."
"I'm devastated by this," she said.
Ridley Township police left the two girls with Land on the night of the crime. She said they cried for an hour and a half on the night of the murder.
Miracle said, " 'Daddy got a hammer and hit mommy in the head and now she's got a big boo-boo. My Mommy's dead,' " according to Land.
"Miracle is in shock, no doubt about it."
The couple acted uncomfortably toward each other, said Benales. "You could tell she felt real uncomfortable around him," she said. "Couples stand by each other. They didn't belong together. They were distant."
To Land, Paul and Yetumbe Wanyoike were "wonderful people, lovely people." The two were "very affectionate, very loving."
But she noticed a change in the marriage in September and October. By Thanksgiving, things had gotten much worse, she said.
Yetumbe was working double shifts at a nursing home as a nurses' aid and recently earned her license as a Registered Nurse from Delaware County Community College. Land didn't know what Paul Wanyoike did, but she recently learned that the well-dressed man had landed a third job.
To others, the married couple kept to themselves. He seemed to be jealous, Land said, breaking at least four of her cell phones. The couple argued after she was on the phone with her brother, Land said.
The crime, she added, has left "two beautiful children here without a mother and father and the big question is, 'Why?' "
Daily News staff writer Nolan