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Police: Man was at slaying scene twice
Stephen Austin made two trips last week from his Berks County home to his mother's home in Upper Mount Bethel Township, police said.
On the first trip, police said, he killed his younger brother, clubbing him in the head a few times with a crowbar, then strangling him for 30 seconds until he stopped breathing about 3 a.m. May 25.
Austin then left his brother's body in the woods near their mother's house on Institute Road, and drove about 70 miles to his own home in Birdsboro, police said.
At some point later that day, police said, Austin returned to his mother's home. This time, police said, he dismembered his brother's body with a bow saw, placed the parts in plastic bags and loaded them into his Jeep for the drive back to Birdsboro.
Those and other details about the slaying and dismemberment of Jonathan Austin, 22, were contained in a search warrant application by state police in Hamburg, returned Wednesday to the Birdsboro office of District Judge David Glass and made available Thursday.
That warrant allowed police to search Stephen Austin's home and Jeep. Police had received another search warrant to examine and obtain materials from the crime scene at Institute Road.
Austin was arraigned last Friday in Bangor on charges of homicide, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence. He remains in Northampton County Prison without bail.
When interviewed by police last week, he said he had hit his brother in the head at least three times with a crowbar, then strangled him, according to police records.
Back at his home at 504 E. Second St., police said, Austin told his wife, Jennifer, that he killed his brother. He told her the body was in the Jeep and he had "to get rid of the body," police said.
The body stayed in the Jeep throughout the day, and Austin waited until dark to find places to bury the body parts, police said.
Austin stopped along Schlegel Road in Maxatawny Township, Berks County, where he dug a shallow grave and buried one of his brother's legs, police said in court papers. He made another stop along Route 345 in French Creek State Park, where he buried his brother's torso in another shallow grave, police said.
While Stephen Austin was scouting for places to bury the body parts, Austin's wife went to Exeter Township police around 11:30 p.m. May 25 and told officer Darrin S. Gartner she believed her husband, who is a paramedic, had killed his brother, according to police.
She mentioned she had seen what looked like a body bag in the rear hatch area of her husband's Jeep earlier in the day. Police said she also said her husband might have a gun and might shoot if confronted by police.
Exeter Township police spotted the red Jeep about an hour later, at 12:40 a.m. last Friday, parked along Route 345. Police stopped the vehicle about two minutes after a state trooper called Austin on his cell phone and said troopers would like to talk to him. Austin hung up his phone, police said.
Inside the Jeep, police said, they found a severed head, two arms and a leg, as well as a shovel, ax and blood-soaked items.
Police also found a bow saw, pruning tool, a roll of 55-gallon contractor bags, latex gloves, a pair of emergency medical technician scissors, an EMT bag, black bags and a blue bin.
Police also found six papers referring to Austin's mother, Katherine Austin. Police did not describe the contents of the papers. Jennifer Austin has said she and Stephen wanted to be Katherine's guardians.
Also taken from the Jeep were a bottle of creatine, a muscle- building supplement; and "Ripped Fuel," an energy drink. They also found .40-caliber ammunition. In the house, police found two .40- caliber handguns, a gray hooded sweatshirt and a pair of black cloth gloves.
A preliminary hearing for Austin, scheduled for today, has been continued until 10 a.m. July 20.
Austin, who initially was represented by a public defender, is represented by Norristown attorney Henry Hilles III, a former assistant district attorney in the major crimes unit of the Montgomery County district attorney's office.
"Obviously this is a tragic situation for the Austin family," Hilles said. "The investigation has just begun to determine what led to this incident."
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said the trips back and forth from the crime scene do not change his view that the Austin slaying is a case of first-degree homicide, punishable by life in prison or a possible death sentence if there is a conviction.
"It doesn't change anything because it does not matter," Morganelli said, adding that a first-degree homicide case requires someone have the specific intent to kill, using a deadly weapon with malice.
Morganelli said there had been a history of "bad relations" between the brothers. Trooper Paul E. Hulbert of the Belfast barracks has said the killing of Jonathan Austin, a 2003 graduate of Bangor Area High School who worked at Dunkin' Donuts in Wind Gap, may have been a culmination of years of disputes.