Murder suspect in DeKalb stabbings in custody

The suspect accused of fatally stabbing a 14-year-old girl and a man Sunday morning in a Decatur apartment has been arrested, DeKalb County authorities said Monday afternoon. 

Authorities say Royce Stewart stabbed his niece, Shykia Ward-Reese, and his sister’s boyfriend, Manuel De Jesus Franco, 35, at the Trinity Walk Apartments, then stole a silver 2014 Ford Mustang convertible, Decatur police Sgt. John Bender confirmed in a statement. 

The 36-year-old was arrested in downtown Decatur, not long after dumping the car during a chase with DeKalb sheriff’s deputies, spokeswoman Cynthia Williams said.

He faces multiple charges, including two counts of murder and one count of theft by taking a motor vehicle.

IN-DEPTH: Police arrest suspect in Decatur stabbings that killed teen, man 

The search for Stewart prompted a lockdown at nearby Bethune Middle School, a DeKalb Schools spokesman confirmed.

This isn’t the first time Stewart has been wanted on murder charges, court records show.

In 2003, DeKalb police charged Stewart with murder in connection with the death of an 18-year-old at a birthday party, according to Channel 2 Action News.

Details about the incident were not immediately available Monday, but records indicate Stewart pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2004 and served five years in prison.

Royce Stewart (Credit: Decatur Police Department)

About 9:35 a.m. Sunday, Decatur police officers responded to a call about a person stabbed at the Decatur apartment complex in the 400 block of West Trinity Place, Bender said.

They found Ward-Reese and Franco dead inside the apartment of Kimberly Ward, who is Stewart’s sister, Ward-Reese’s mother and Franco’s girlfriend. Police said Stewart was visiting Ward and did not live in the complex.

A memorial was growing Monday on the steps outside the apartment.

There was a growing memorial Monday in front of an apartment where a 14-year-old girl and a man were killed Sunday morning. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

And a candlelight vigil has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the courtyard behind the City Schools of Decatur central office, Superintendent David Dude said. Ward was an eighth-grader at Renfroe Middle School, according to the school system. 

Crisis counselors were at the school Monday “for any students or staff needing support during this difficult time,” Dude said in a statement posted on Facebook. “Please keep all of those impacted in your thoughts and prayers.”

Shykia Ward-Reese, 14, was one of two victims in a deadly stabbing in Decatur. (Credit: Channel 2 Action News)

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