Neighbors of a 23-year-old man accused of fatally stabbing a woman with a 10-inch hunting knife during a rampage inside Winchester Public Library yesterday say his behavior has been increasingly erratic in recent months and one even said he warned authorities that he “will kill somebody.”

“We warned them. We warned them. I can’t believe this,” one of Jeffrey Yao’s neighbors told the Herald yesterday. “This whole thing could have been avoided, all of it.”

The neighbor, who asked not to be identified out of fear of retribution, said Yao, identified by authorities as the man who fatally stabbed a 22-year-old Winchester woman inside the library yesterday morning, tried to “smash our door down” at 3 a.m. late last year.

The neighbor, a father of two young children, said he spoke with authorities about the incident and warned them that Yao posed a serious threat to the public.

“I said … he will kill someone,” the man said. “He will kill the family or he will kill somebody.”

At about 10 a.m. yesterday, Yao approached the 22-year-old victim from behind as she was sitting in a reading section of the Washington Street library and repeatedly plunged a hunting knife with a 10-inch blade into her body, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan said, leaving her with “a number of slash and stab wounds to the head and upper torso.”

One eyewitness told the Herald he heard a loud commotion coming from the reading section and saw Yao acting agitated and yelling incoherently.

The woman, whose name wasn’t released last night, later died from her injuries, Ryan said. A 77-year-old man who was sitting near her at the time of the attack tried to stop the assault and suffered non-life-threatening stab wounds, Ryan said. Other library patrons jumped in and subdued Yao until police arrived, she said.

Ryan said Yao is known to police but declined to elaborate. She said he will be arraigned tomorrow in Woburn District Court on charges of murder and attempted murder.

His neighbors weren’t surprised to hear Yao was involved in the attack. Some neighbors said he has become increasingly aggressive in recent months and started keying cars, slashing tires and smashing bottles in the street.

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One neighbor said she has been keeping her kids inside the house whenever Yao was around. Another said neighborhood residents have taken steps to protect themselves.

“People started buying bats to have by their beds,” she said.

The woman said she and her neighbors tried to warn Winchester police but were told they were aware of Yao’s behavior and had been shadowing him when he leaves his house at night.

Winchester police officials referred all questions to Ryan’s office, which declined to answer questions about authorities’ knowledge of Yao.

The horrific crime in such a public place rattled residents who passed by the scene yesterday.

“I tell my kids to come here after school,” said Gina Bellistri. “I’m just a little shocked this is happening.”

The library will remain closed until at least Tuesday.


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