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'No words to explain' slain brother
Jim Nagy sat in his house trailer Saturday, chain-smoking, sipping beer and sharing memories of brothers Stephen and Jonathan Austin, his Upper Mount Bethel Township neighbors.
"The boys didn't get along very well," said Nagy, who lives about 200 yards from the 535 Institute Drive home where on Thursday, according to police, Stephen, 26, beat and strangled Jonathan, 22, then chopped his body apart with a hatchet and bow saw, put the remains in his Jeep and drove to Berks County.
"Stevie had a lot going for him," Nagy said. "He had a gorgeous wife and three beautiful kids. John was a different kind of kid."
Police say Stephen buried some of his brother's remains in Maxatawny Township, Berks County. His wife, Jennifer, alerted police to the killing, and when Exeter Township police stopped Stephen, in Birdsboro, they found Jonathan's head and hands in the Jeep.
The brothers had argued, but police have not said what the argument was about.
Nagy said the Austin family moved into the Upper Mount Bethel home about 15 years ago. The father, Charles J. Austin, died in August 1998, when the helicopter he had built crashed about five miles from home, leaving his wife, Katherine, to raise their sons.
Stephen lived in Birdsboro, but Nagy said he often visited his mother because she has health problems. A few weeks ago, he said, Stephen stopped by the trailer to cut his grass. On Tuesday, Nagy said, he drove Jonathan and Katherine to Wind Gap to retrieve Jonathan's belongings from a former girlfriend's home.
Nagy learned of Jonathan's death Friday evening. "I said, "What the hell's going on?' " He tapped a newspaper that featured a photo of Stephen in handcuffs. "Hey, that kid was my buddy," he said. He pointed to a photo of Jonathan. "I just had that kid in my car Tuesday."
Next door at the Austins', no one was home, but Samantha Tullo, 16, and Megan Jacobus, 17, both of Bangor, were trying to corral Jonathan's orange-and-white cat, which seemed content to lounge in the yard. The girls worried the cat couldn't manage on its own.
A gold minivan -- the girls said it belongs to Katherine Austin - - sat in the driveway. A mangled silver compact car sat near the garage, the driver's door hanging open, the passenger side caved in and the windshield shattered.
"That's Johnny Austin's" car, Tullo said, pointing out that to his friends, Jonathan was always known as "Johnny Austin," running the four syllables together, as though first and last names were one.
Tullo said she had known "Johnny Austin" for years, having met him through "friends of friends of friends."
Tullo said she was "always" at the Austin home, a modest white- sided two-story that sits eight-tenths of a mile west of the more heavily traveled Totts Gap Road. Parts of Institute Drive are unpaved and muddy.
On the far east side of a wooden deck that stretches the length of the Austin house, a faded American flag hung limply next to a decorative banner bearing a smiling likeness of Winnie-the-Pooh. Beneath the flags sat a ceramic orange pumpkin. Children's ride-on toys were parked neatly near the flags.
Tullo waved as a second car pulled up. Chris Mendelsohn, 23, of Bangor, and Kevin Williams, 21, of Pen Argyl, had stopped by to see if Katherine Austin could give them funeral details. The girls told them the house was empty.
Tullo and Mendelsohn stood in the road and Jacobus sat on Tullo's car trunk. They reminisced about their lost friend.
"There's no words to explain Johnny Austin, man," Tullo said. "He loved to party. He was very involved with his music." She said his musical tastes varied and included reggae, rock, metal and death metal. He had a bedroom in his mother's house, Tullo said, but he spent most of his time in the large garage just behind the house.
Police said the slaying took place in the garage. Nagy said Charles Austin constructed the building and operated an electrical contracting business from it. Last summer, Tullo said, she and some other friends helped "Johnny Austin" put partitions in the garage to mark off rooms.
A subdued Williams stayed in Mendelsohn's car. He said he had "hung out" with Jonathan sometimes and had gone to Bangor Area High School with him. "He didn't really express his feelings too much," Williams said.
Tullo said that because she spent so much time at the house, she knows Stephen, who remains in Northampton County Prison without bail, charged with criminal homicide, abuse of a corpse and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. "He was fine," she said. "There was nothing wrong with him. He was fine. There was no problem."
Tullo, like Nagy, said Stephen is father to three "beautiful" boys.
She and Jacobus said they don't know where Katherine Austin is. Tullo said she "used to come here and bake cupcakes and brownies" with her.
"I feel really bad for her," Jacobus said.