PENNSBURG, Pa. - An ex-Marine's suicide ended a violent rampage that left his ex-wife and five of her relatives dead a week after he lost a custody battle.
Bradley Stone was found dead of self-inflicted stab wounds Tuesday following a killing spree in suburban Philadelphia. Residents and officials were relieved it was over but mourned the loss of so many lives.
The disabled 35-year-old spared his two young daughters, but authorities said he broke into three homes early Monday and killed his ex-wife; her mother and grandmother; and her sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew survived by barricading himself in the third floor of his home, but not before he suffered a skull fracture.
Stone's body was found the next afternoon a half-mile from his home in Pennsburg, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The discovery ended a day-and-a-half manhunt that brought back memories of the recent 48-day search in the Pocono Mountains for survivalist Eric Frein, charged with killing a state trooper and critically wounding another during an ambush.
"There's no reason, no valid excuse, no justification for snuffing out these six innocent lives and injuring another child," Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri 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."
Stone's former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found shot twice in the face in her apartment Monday after a neighbour heard glass breaking and saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their daughters. The girls were later found safe with Stone's neighbours.
Her adult relatives were fatally shot. The teenagers were slashed and suffered blows to their heads. Ferman said the nephew was in "very serious" condition.
Stone and his ex-wife had been fighting over their children's custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency request for custody this month but a judge rejected his petition on Dec. 9, Ferman said.
"It's a relief that they found him," said Nicole Stone's neighbour Dale Shupe. "Now we know he's not out trying to do more harm to anybody else."
As the manhunt dragged on and SWAT teams swarmed through neighbourhoods, 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. The schools were expected to reopen Wednesday.
Candy Rumford, whose family lives near where authorities found Stone's body, described SWAT helicopters "hanging above our house, hovering right over here in these woods."
Neighbour Alyssa Hettrick said the whole town had been on lockdown. She said authorities had tried to evacuate her home but her family has three dogs and decided to stay.
"So, it's kind of a huge shock to know that he was there all night while we were inside," she said.
Neighbours said Nicole Stone 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 neighbour in Harleysville.
Stone was in the Marines from 2002 to 2008. His specialty was listed as "artillery meteorological man."
At a 2011 child support hearing, he said that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting VA benefits, according to court documents. The VA had no comment Tuesday.
Ferman said Stone sometimes used a cane or walker. She said she 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 and had an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbours said.
Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in Pennsburg contributed to this report.