(VELIKA IVANCA, Serbia) — Stubline is a collection of 10 mud-and-brick homes nestled among fruit trees on a hill at the end of an unpaved Serbian road. It is also the site of a shocking massacre by a man who survivors of the hamlet insist was “the best neighbor.”
Before going to bed Monday night, Ljubisa Bogdanovic, 60, even chatted with neighbor Radovan Radosavljevic.
“He was perfectly normal. I saw him last night when I was closing my chicken [coop], he asked me how was I and then he said he hoped it would stop raining so that we can get on with our agriculture,” Radosavljevic told ABC News.
But at dawn, Bogdanovic began an inexplicable slaughter. Villagers say Bogdanovic first killed his son, then his mother, and wounded his wife before he left his house and began shooting his neighbors.
“He knocked on the doors and as they were opened he just fired a shot,” said Radosavljevic, who lost his aunt and first cousin in this tightly knit village.
When it was over, six men, six women and a 2-year-old boy were dead.
“This village is dead now. Five out of ten houses are closed now. There is no life here now,” said neighbor Stanica Kostatinovic.
“I think it was a bad dream,” said Aleksandar Stekic, who slept through the shooting. When he woke up, he found his mother dead on the doorsteps. He had no credit on his cell phone, so he went to his neighbor’s house to call police, but saw they were also gunned down. “At that point I did not know where I was,” he said.
Despite the carnage, shocked survivors could only think of good things to say about the gunman.
“He was the best neighbor. Nothing indicated that such a thing could happen. Only he knows the motive for the killing,” Radosavljevic said.
Stanica Kostatinovic agreed. “He was a good host, he and his son, nice, hard working, always ready to help,” she said. “He did not drink alcohol nor smoke.”
Her husband, Milovan Kostatinovic, told ABC News, “I had a drink with Ljubisa on Sunday. We talked about this strange winter-like weather, but he was normal, we even had a laugh,” Kostatinovic said.
Serbia’s Police Director Milorad Veljovic told journalists at the hamlet, “We were all caught by surprise….Most of the victims were shot while they were sleeping.”
“We never had a tragedy on such a scale in Serbia and we must now find out what drove this man to kill so many people,” he said.
Veljovic said that 12 people had been killed immediately while the 13th died on a hospital operating table. The gunman and his wife are both in critical condition in a Belgrade hospital.
The hamlet of Stubline is part of the village of Velika Ivanca and is about 35 miles southwest of Belgrade.
Serbia has the fifth-highest number of weapons per capita in the world, but with little gun violence. The government in Belgrade called a special cabinet session to discuss the incident, including how the country should mourn the dead.
The last mass murder in Serbia took place in 2007 in Jabukovac, a village in eastern Serbia, where a man killed nine people.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN
Steve Almasy, CNN
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Tim Hume and Vasco Cotovio, CNN
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN