It started with the Austin brothers arguing in the family garage in Upper Mount Bethel Township.
It ended the next day 80 miles away in Berks County, on the older brother's birthday, police say, when they stopped him and found his sibling's severed head and hands in his Jeep.
Stephen Joseph Austin, 26, faces charges of criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in the death of Jonathan Nicholas Austin, 22.
State police would not say Friday what the brothers argued about. Whatever it was, Trooper Paul Hulbert wrote in an affidavit, Stephen Austin became angry enough to strike Jonathan Austin in the head with a crow bar once, maybe twice, maybe three times.
Then he strangled him.
At a news conference at the state police barracks in Bethlehem, Lt. William Teper said that after the killing, Austin loaded his brother's body into the vehicle and drove it to an area of fields and woods 200 to 300 yards from the home.
There, Teper said, Austin cut up the body with a bow saw and hatchet.
The death of Jonathan Austin and arrest of Stephen Austin is the latest tragedy for a family that has dealt with a difficult death before.
Their father, Charles J. Austin, perished eight years ago when his homemade, single-seat helicopter crashed not far from the family farmhouse on rural, unpaved Institute Road, not far from Minsi Lake.
It was inside 535 Institute Road that investigators said the latest family tragedy began at 3 a.m. Thursday.
Stephen Austin is a member of the Malvern Ambulance Service in Chester County and lives in Birdsboro, Berks County. He was visiting his family home in Upper Mount Bethel Township, where his brother lived with their mother, Katherine.
Only 12 days ago, Stephen Austin had seemed happy, said a lawyer he met with on pleasant terms.
"As far as I know he was a working man, a family man, a father, a husband," said Easton lawyer Alexander J. Karam Jr. "This man had it all going for him. He had it all together. That's why it's a total shock to me. I feel bad. I feel really bad for this family."
Stephen Austin's wife, Jennifer, had brought her husband to the lawyer's office while she told Karam she did not want to pursue a divorce she had filed for two years ago.
She was the one who turned her husband in to police in his brother's slaying.
According to court documents, Jennifer Austin called state police at the Belfast barracks at 11:20 p.m. Thursday. She said her husband told her he had killed his brother at their childhood home. She believed he may be in his 1998 red Jeep Cherokee disposing of the corpse.
Police said that's exactly what he was doing.
After Jennifer Austin's call to police, state police had issued an alert to other police departments to watch for the vehicle. At 12:40 a.m. Friday, Exeter Township police in Berks County found one matching that description parked in a wooded area near French Creek State Park. No one was inside.
They kept an eye on the car.
According to police and court records, at 1:14 a.m., Stephen Austin got into his car and drove north on Route 345. The officers followed and stopped him near Fifth Street in Union Township, not far from Austin's home. Inside, police saw a shovel, axe and blood soaked items.
Jonathan Austin's head and hands were discovered, too, after police obtained a search warrant.
According to the police affidavit, Stephen Austin confessed to killing his brother and disposing of the body parts in wooded areas of Berks County.
Investigators found the body pieces buried in a number of places in French Creek State Park and along Schlegel Road in Maxatawny Township, Taper said. He said they recovered the entire corpse.
Stephen Austin, who now lives at 504 E. Second St. in Birdsboro, was arraigned Friday night before Senior District Judge Sherwood Grigg in Bangor and sent to Northampton County Prison without bail.
"I'm confident that this is clearly a first-degree murder case, that it was an intentional act," District Attorney John Morganelli said at Friday's news conference.
He was uncertain, though, whether he will seek the death penalty, saying that decision will come later.
In Stephen Austin's tree-lined neighborhood in Birdsboro early Friday, next-door neighbor Beth Cuccaro left for work at 7:40 a.m.
A trooper was standing outside the white duplex that Cuccaro has shared with the family since August, the one with the children's toys and stroller in the backyard.
She said Austin, his wife and his three sons were always quiet and respectful and kept the house tidy.
"I'm still in complete shock," said Cuccaro, who lives in half of the duplex and rents the other to the Austins.
Bangor Area School District Superintendent John Reinhart had a similar reaction.
Reinhart was principal of Five Points Elementary when the Austin brothers began school. As a high school senior, Stephen Austin won a Slate Belt Chamber of Commerce Award, Elmer Gates Enterprise Award, Vocational Industrial Clubs of America Award and Health Related Technology Award.
"They were fine kids and a fine family," he said. "It's very saddening to here all this. My heart goes out to his mom and family."
Reporters Tyra Braden, Arlene Martinez and Manuel Gamiz Jr. contributed to this story.