Man, 2-year-old girl found shot to death in Abita Springs home

A 2-year-old girl and a man who St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputies said is likely her father were found dead of gunshot wounds Monday morning at a house on Carnation Street near Abita Springs.

The child’s mother found the bodies, according to Sheriff Jack Strain.

The two were killed by gunfire at close range in what Strain said appeared to be a double homicide, though he said the incident would not be classified until the St. Tammany Parish Coroner’s Office completes its work.

Late Monday, the Coroner’s Office had yet to release any information on the matter.

The Sheriff’s Office did not identify the dead, but WDSU-TV reported that family members identified the victims as Jacob Middleton and his 2-year-old daughter Makayla Christine Middleton.

Jacob Middleton, 35, is listed as living at 72525 Carnation St. in the Abita Nursery subdivision, where the bodies were found.

A 2008 Habitat for Humanity newsletter carried a story about Middleton and his wife, Alina Middleton, and their then-11-year-old son, Jacob Middleton Jr., describing them as one of the families that soon would be moving into the Abita Nursery subdivision, where St. Tammany West Habitat for Humanity volunteers and staff were building them a home.

The newsletter said the couple had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and rising rents had forced them to move in with relatives in Metairie. The story said the couple was looking forward to celebrating Christmas in their new home.

“Whatever we have to do, we’ll make it,’’ Alina Middleton was quoted as saying. “We’re a team. And God’s watching us every step of the way.’’

Strain said the dead man had a history of domestic violence and mental-health issues.

St. Tammany Parish Clerk of Court Office records show that Middleton faced a domestic abuse battery charge in 2010, but the matter was dropped in 2013.

Sheriff’s Office investigators were interviewing the girl’s mother at headquarters early Monday afternoon, according to Strain, as the Coroner’s Office removed the bodies from the small house on the dead-end gravel road.

Neighbors, several of whom came out to talk to reporters, shivered in the cold air and said they were shocked by the events. They described the street as a quiet one.

Makeda Singleton said she had seen the little girl only once and didn’t know the family. Neither did neighbor Nicholas Casnave, who said the green Jeep Cherokee parked at the house had not moved for several days.

The Sheriff’s Office was notified about the bodies at about 10 a.m., spokesman George Bonnett said.

The deaths are the first homicides in St. Tammany Parish this year. No homicides took place in unincorporated St. Tammany Parish in 2013.