HAVERHILL — "I killed my wife," said a man holding a large carving knife dripping with blood.
"Put the knife down. Put the knife down," a police officer ordered, while pointing his handgun at the man.
That is what Tim Allen said he witnessed in the hallway of his apartment building moments after screams awakened him from a nap at 3 p.m. yesterday.
Allen said the screams were coming from an upstairs apartment rented by a couple from Nevada, who moved in two months ago.
"I never heard a woman scream like that," Allen said. "It sounded like she was screaming for her life."
Police said they received a 911 call at 3:07 p.m. yesterday. Officers raced to 107 Chestnut St. and then upstairs to a second-floor apartment, where they found Christina Mulgrave, 45, stabbed several times. Police arrested her husband, Craig Mulgrave, 33, and have charged him with her slaying.
Stephen O'Connell, spokesman for the district attorney's office, said Christina Mulgrave made the 911 call to police. Haverhill police Sgt. John Arahovites said her voice was "frantic," and she screamed, "I am being stabbed.'' Then silence.
"It was one of the worst examples of domestic violence you could possibly have,'' Arahovites said. "The 911 call was horrific and the scene was horrific. It was a very tragic event.''
He said he was unaware of past calls for police to the apartment.
Paramedics rushed Christina Mulgrave to Merrimack Valley Hospital in Haverhill, where she died a short time later, police said.
"It appears to be a case of domestic violence,'' Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said.
Craig Mulgrave was held overnight in the Haverhill police station. He was scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Haverhill District Court.
O'Connell said the Mulgraves moved to Haverhill in December. They have been together for two years and lived in Las Vegas prior to moving to Haverhill, he said.
Allen, the neighbor, said when he heard the screams from the Mulgraves' apartment, number 2-R in the building, he rushed upstairs and knocked on the couple's door, but there was no answer. On his way downstairs he began to call police on his cell phone, but at the same time a police officer ran upstairs past him.
"He kicked in the door to the wrong apartment, looked in, and asked if anyone was there," said Allen, who at the time was standing in the stairwell. "Then the guy comes out of his apartment with a huge carving knife in his hand. He just said, 'I killed my wife.' He said it so matter-of-factly, so calmly."
Allen, 45, said the officer turned away from the door he had just kicked in, pointed his gun at the man, and ordered him to drop the knife, which he did.
"It was the weirdest thing," Allen said. "His knife was covered in blood and the pajamas he was wearing were covered in blood, too. Every time I saw the guy he was wearing his pajamas."
Allen said he watched as police handcuffed the man and escorted him to a cruiser, while at the same time paramedics were tending to Christina Mulgrave.
"I guess they got a pulse, but by the time they got her downstairs they could not get a pulse, but they kept working on her," Allen said. "While they were putting her in an ambulance, this kid who looked around 17 was outside screaming and telling police he was going to kill the guy. Police said it was the woman's son."
Arahovites said he had no information about the teenager.
Chestnut Street is a quarter-mile from City Hall. It is in Haverhill's Highlands neighborhood, known for its old Victorian homes, many of which have been made into apartment buildings by their owners.
Most of the homes on this stretch of the street are still one-family buildings, but the building where the stabbing took place contains several apartments, neighbors said. They said they were shocked by the stabbing.
Families from the neighborhood mingle and everyone knows each other, said Trish Shaw, whose family lives at 114 Chestnut St.
"There have been incidents in the past at that house," Shaw said. "Around four years ago a man who was mad at his wife set fire to their apartment. They left and after that the landlord redid the house."
The fire, in 2004, was in a pile of brush next to the building, and burned part of the exterior, also causing damage to the inside of one apartment, according to police reports. Shortly after the fire, the owners remodeled the building. It is a beige Victorian, wooden structure.
Shaw said the couple living above Allen had arrived in mid-December in a U-Haul truck towing a car with Nevada plates.
"I introduced myself to the man and he told me his wife had family in the area and wanted to come back," Shaw said. "He seemed very nice at the time."
Shaw said it was the last time she spoke to him.
Late yesterday afternoon, police led Craig Mulgrave from the apartment building. After he was taken away, investigators took photos of the front steps of the building, which had his footprints marked with blood.
When Shaw arrived home with her children yesterday afternoon, the street was filled with police. When she heard what had happened, she rushed her children into the house.
"It really bothers me to think someone who lives across the street from us is capable of doing something like this," Shaw said. "What a shame. It's very sad. I don't know what would drive someone to stab their wife."
Allen said the first time he ever saw Christina Mulgrave was yesterday, and that the few times he's bumped into Craig Mulgrave in their apartment building very little was said.
"He wasn't that friendly," Allen said. "I think the woman worked as a nurse and that she supported him."
City assessor records list the owner of 107 Chestnut St. as Thomas and Allen Angeli of North Reading.
Local police said the investigation is being led by state police Lt. Norman Zuk, assisted by Haverhill Detective Joseph Benedetti. Sgt. Dana Burrill was the first to arrive on scene and take Craig Mulgrave into custody with the help of patrol officers.
Police blocked off the neighborhood to through traffic and brought in the Haverhill police mobile command vehicle, which has computers and other equipment used in such investigations. Officers taped off the building from the public.
An autopsy on the body of Christina Mulgrave is scheduled for today, O'Connell said.