PENNSBURG, Pa. (AP) — An Iraq War veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives was found dead of self-inflicted stab wounds Tuesday in the woods of suburban Philadelphia, ending a day-and-a-half manhunt that closed schools and left people on edge.
Bradley William Stone’s body was discovered a half-mile from his Pennsburg home, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The 35-year-old former Marine sergeant had cuts in the center of his body, and some kind of knife was found at the scene, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.
Stone, who had been locked in a custody dispute so bitter that his ex-wife feared for her life, went on a 90-minute shooting and slashing rampage before daybreak Monday at three homes a few miles apart, authorities said.
“There’s no reason, no valid excuse, no justification for snuffing out these six innocent lives and injuring another child,” Ferman said. “This is just a horrific tragedy that our community has had to endure. We’re really numb from what we’ve had to go through over the past two days.”
The killings set off the second major manhunt to transfix Pennsylvania in the past few months. Eric Frein spent 48 days at large in the Poconos after the September ambush slaying of a state trooper.
Stone’s former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found shot twice in her apartment after a neighbor heard glass breaking and saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their two young daughters, authorities said. The girls were later found safe with Stone’s neighbors.
Police went to two other homes and discovered five more people dead: Nicole Stone’s mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew suffered knife wounds to the head and hands, and Ferman said he was in “very serious” condition.
The adults were all shot. The teens were slashed.
Authorities said Stone bashed in the back doors of the first two homes and smashed his ex-wife’s sliding glass door with a propane tank.
“It’s a relief that they found him,” said Stone’s neighbor Dale Shupe. “Now we know he’s not out trying to do more harm to anybody else.”
As the manhunt dragged on — with SWAT teams making their way through neighborhoods and the Philadelphia police sending in a heat-sensing helicopter — at least five schools within a few miles of Stone’s home closed, and others were locked down. Veterans’ hospitals and other places tightened security.
Ashley Tessier, of Pennsburg, took her sick 7-month-old son to the pediatrician in a stroller Tuesday as SWAT teams knocked on doors along her route. She said she felt she had no choice, since she postponed Monday’s doctor visit because residents were told to take cover.
“Seeing all this is really terrifying — the dogs, the guns, the SWAT team,” she said.
The rampage unfolded in the towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton.
Stone and his ex-wife had fighting over their children’s custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency request for custody this month and was denied Dec. 9, Ferman said.
Neighbors said Nicole Stone lived in such fear of her ex-husband that she would sometimes ask her apartment complex’s maintenance staff to go in and check her place first because she was afraid he might be lying in wait.
“She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her and that she was really afraid for her life,” said Evan Weron, a neighbor in Harleysville.
Stone was in the Marines from 2002 to 2008. His specialty was listed as “artillery meteorological man.”
Stone told a 2011 child support hearing that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting benefits from the agency, according to court documents. The VA had no comment Tuesday.
Ferman said Stone sometimes used a cane or walker, but she said had no evidence he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Stone faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, and Ferman said he was undergoing treatment through veterans’ court as part of his sentence.
Stone remarried last year, according to his Facebook page and court records, and has an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.
(Copyright 2014, The Associated Press, All rights reserved.)