Authorities in New Jersey are stepping up efforts to track down a man accused of brutally killing his wife — a crime family members say happened in front of the couple’s two young children.

Steven Damon, 47, is wanted in connection with the alleged murder of his 46-year-old wife, Tanya Morris, in their Newark apartment on the morning of Aug. 4.

Keith Russell, Tanya Morris' ex-husband prior to Steven Damon, said he was given a detailed, grisly account of the crime by Morris' 8-year-old son — who he said witnessed the stabbing along with his 6-year-old brother.

"They were arguing initially. And then they started fighting. He was choking, and she fought back. She started to get the best of him. He ran and got a knife," Russell said.

In the midst of the altercation, trying to stab Morris, Damon found the knife still had a protective cover, Russell said. He pulled it off, and stabbed her multiple times, both in the back of the neck and the torso, Russell said, citing both a coroner's report and the 8-year-old's account.

"He definitely tortured her," he said. "You could see her handprints and her kneeprints. She definitely fought back."

Russell said he was part of the group to eventually clean the home.

"It was a brutal sight, let me tell you," he said.

“Then he got up and he changed his shirt, shut the phone off, looked at the younger child and said, 'Your mother’s asleep, don’t wake her up,' and he left.'” Fredrica Morris, Tanya Morris' sister, said. She'd gotten the account from Russell, who confirmed she described it accurately to his understanding.

The children called 911 but their mother was pronounced dead by the time emergency crews arrived, both family members said. Russell said Damon had left via a ride-sharing service.

Russell said a landlord also had called up, wanting to know about the noise he was hearing. The landlord also called 911, he said.

The two boys are now living with a relative.

The prosecutor's office said earlier this month it was seeking Damon in the stabbing, and has already charged him with murder and weapons offenses. The account given by family members includes allegations that were not part of that announcement. The information provided by authorities at the time didn't address whether the children had been at home during the killing.

Fredrica Morris said she was shocked and “totally lost it” when she learned what happened.

“I always felt like there was some mental issue with him. I think he played mind games with her. I think she endured mental abuse. He was a jerk. He was lazy. The man is evil, she said.

Fredrica Morris said for 9 years Tanya was a loving supportive wife. And while there were no signs of physical abuse, she said, Damon would frequently berate her sister.

“Tanya was always very easy going, very meek, and he was a predator. He preyed on her."

According to Fredrica Morris, Tanya had divorced her husband, then reunited with him three times, because she desperately wanted the relationship to work.

“We’re still in shock. We just never in a million years expected this to hit home, so it’s just a gamut of emotions,” she said.

She said her feelings range from fear and despair to anger and wanting revenge, but “we are a huge family of faith and so we know that revenge is really not up to us, so we just want justice to be served.”

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Bob Laurino said authorities are actively pursuing Damon, and they believe he may have left the state.

He said if people think they have spotted Damon, “they should not approach him. They should immediately call 911.”

“We’re concerned because we believe he may be armed and dangerous and so we’re asking for the public’s help in assisting us to apprehend him," Laurino said.

Laurino described the case as very disturbing, and said because two young children witnessed what happened, “many people have been moved to tears."

"These are pretty hardened prosecutors that deal with crime every day, but to have children exposed to this type of violence is extraordinarily disturbing," he said.

Fredrica Morris said the entire family is still trying to come to grips with what happened.

“Sometimes we just call each other and cry. Sometimes we just keep going back over it and over it, and saying, 'What did I miss?'" she said.

She called Damon a "predator."

"If you look in his eyes, you can see the darkness," she said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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