PENNSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Schools closed and hospitals and other public places tightened security Tuesday as police in suburban Philadelphia hunted for a Marine veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives.
Residents remained on alert even as officials lifted a shelter-in-place order for parts of Bucks County, where a knife-wielding, fatigue-clad man resembling Bradley William Stone attempted a carjacking Monday night.
Stone, locked in a child custody dispute, went on a 90-minute shooting rampage before daybreak Monday at three homes within a few miles of each other in the Montgomery County towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton, authorities said.
SWAT teams surrounded his Pennsburg home for hours on Monday and demanded through a bullhorn that the Iraq War veteran give himself up. But he was gone.
Philadelphia police sent a helicopter with body-heat-sensing equipment to help in the search. As the manhunt dragged through the night and into Tuesday, four schools within a few miles of Stone’s home closed, and other schools were on lockdown.
The killings and the manhunt echoed another recent Pennsylvania tragedy — Eric Frein’s 48 days on the run through the Poconos after the ambush slaying of a state trooper in September.
Stone’s former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found dead in her apartment after a neighbor saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their two young daughters, authorities said.
Police then discovered five more people killed in two other homes: Nicole Stone’s mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew was wounded in the head and left clinging to life.
The daughters were later found safe with Stone’s neighbors.
Stone and his ex-wife had been locked in a court fight over their children’s custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency motion this month, although the resulting Dec. 9 ruling remained sealed in court files.
“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.
He said Nicole Stone would talk frequently about the custody dispute.
She “came into the house a few times, a few separate occasions, crying about how it was very upsetting to her,” Weron said.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman would not discuss the weapon or weapons used in the slayings and said authorities did not know if Stone was on foot.
Stone was probably wearing military fatigues and may have shaved off his facial hair, Ferman said. She added that he sometimes used a cane or walker.
“I’m (angry) because he could have come to my door and I could have taken him to a treatment center, and we could have worked this out,” said longtime friend Matthew Schafte.
Stone was in the Marines from 2002 through 2008. The former sergeant’s occupational specialty was listed as “artillery meteorological man.”
Schafte said he was not aware of any injuries Stone may have suffered as a Marine.
Stone had faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, one of which was handled in veterans’ court and led to a three- to 23-month sentence.
He remarried last year, according to his Facebook page and court records, and has an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured.
His wife’s Facebook page shows their son and Stone’s daughters having their picture taken with Santa on Saturday.
Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.
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