07/23/2015 06:57 EDT | Updated 07/23/2016 05:59 EDT

'Lucky to be alive,' says St. John's prof stabbed in California double-homicide

Theodore Norvell, the St. John's man seriously hurt in a stabbing attack in the United States that left two people dead, is thanking those who reached out to him to give help and support.

The 52-year-old engineering professor at Memorial University is still in hospital after suffering multiple life-threatening stab wounds to his neck and chest in an early-morning attack Sunday while visiting his sister's family in northern California.

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"Thank you to all who have written messages of support for me and my family," Norvell wrote in a Facebook post early Thursday.

"For those who do not know, we were attacked on Saturday night — and lost a great deal," wrote Norvell. 

"We lost my wonderful brother-in law Coleman. We lost his and Cindy's son, Teo — a young man who was just getting started in life. Cindy and I are healing from serious injuries and are lucky to be alive," Norvell said in the post.

The suspect in the Laytonville killings is Talen Clark Barton, 19, who was previously in the foster-care system and had been living with the California family. 

Norvell's brother-in-law, Coleman Palmieri, 52, and 17-year-old nephew Teo were killed.

Norvell and his 54-year-old sister, Dr. Cindy Norvell, suffered stab wounds and were brought to hospital in serious condition. 

Norvell's daughter, Saskia, and his sister's daughter, Rhiananon, were unharmed, and Saskia is being credited with de-escalating the situation and coaxing Barton to turn himself in.

Norvell wrote that the family felt lucky that "Saskia and Rhiananon are physically healthy, and were able to help prevent the situation from becoming even worse."

Norvell's daughter called a hero

Police said Saskia called 911 and was able to keep Barton calm. Shortly after, police have said, Barton took the phone and engaged in a lengthy conversation with the dispatcher, before admitting to the homicides and turning himself over when police arrived at the scene.

Winnipeg resident Kathleen Martens, a cousin of Norvell's wife, told CBC News that the extended family is in shock — but overwhelmed at the bravery of the teenage Saskia in dealing with the killer.

"Adults would've cowered at his feet," Martens said. 

"Your dad is bleeding out and you're in the middle of this crisis situation. I don't know what she was thinking, but to stay calm and make the call and summon help as quickly as she did. I know she saved lives. In my mind, she's a hero."

Theodore Norvell is recovering in a California hospital, after going through reconstructive surgery due to the stab wounds.

Despite that, he was still able to write the emotional Facebook post on Thursday, thanking those that have helped and supported him.

"I have to thank the wonderful trauma team led by Dr. Schmidt and the thoracic team led by Dr. Korver and the other staff in ICU and beyond at Santa Rosa Memorial," he wrote.

"Also the staff in Redding, where Cindy is healing, and also the rest of the family and many friends who have helped or simply sent massages of support."