A heavily pregnant woman and her boyfriend were the victims of a targeted attack when they were shot dead outside their apartment in New Orleans, police have claimed. Breon Stewart, 23, and Lionel Delpit III, 25, were each shot several times in a brutal killing in the American city's Wind Run housing complex on Thursday.

Police investigating the young couple's murder described it as a "hideous crime", adding that they are confident it was not a random attack. With Stewart just says away from giving birth, prosecutors are now deciding whether or not to add a third count to the double homicide charge.

Commander Doug Eckert, head of New Orleans Police Department's criminal investigations division, said detectives are currently investigating several leads but are confident the couple were the intended targets. He added that officers are not yet sure if there were multiple gunmen or just one.

"There's no good time for a homicide, there's no good time for a murder, but this, right before the holidays, just makes it that much worse," he went on to say. Stewart – who was about to graduate with a nursing degree from Delgado college – had been due to give birth on 29 December.

Just days before she was killed, Ms Stewart posted a message on Twitter that read: "Thank you Lord for a brand new day". She had built a large following on Twitter and Instagram, largely due to her regular updates on both her own pregnancy and that of her twin sister Britnee, who gave birth on 11 December.

Her hardworking boyfriend juggled two jobs and was a member of the Black Feather Mardi Gras Indians – a well-known carnival troupe that dress in clothing inspired by Native American communities while taking part in New Orleans' annual Mardi Gras celebrations.

Stewart's cousin Kioke Johnson told NOLA.com that the couple's killing was senseless, adding that she had no idea why anybody would murder them. Johnson revealed that Stewart's twin sister had given birth last week and that the Johnsons and Stewarts had been looking forward to another addition to their families.

The double murder sparked a huge outpouring on social media, with friends, family and strangers paying their respects to the couple and their unborn son. Keenan Lewis, who plays American football for local side the New Orleans Saints was once of those posting tribute messages.