The body of a man suspected of killing six members of his estranged family was found in the woods half a mile away from his Philadelphia-area home Tuesday afternoon, ending a tense manhunt, officials said.
Bradley William Stone appeared to have used some type of knife to kill himself with “self-inflicted cutting wounds to the center of his body,” Montgomery County Dist. Atty. Risa Vetri Ferman said in a news conference that revealed more details about the attacks against Stone’s ex-wife and her family.
The discovery near Pennsburg, where Stone lived, a town about 45 miles northwest of Philadelphia, closes a second rural Pennsylvania manhunt that had rattled residents in the region after Monday morning’s attacks.
Stone, 35, a former Marine, is alleged to have gone on a 90-minute shooting and slashing rampage before daybreak Monday at three homes within a few miles of one another in the Montgomery County towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton, authorities said.
Involved in a custody battle over his two daughters, Stone allegedly shot his ex-wife, Nicole Stone; her mother, Joanne Hill; her grandmother Patricia Hill; and her sister Tricia Flick. He shot and slashed her brother-in-law Aaron Flick and slashed a 14-year-old niece, Nina Flick, Ferman said. All the injuries were fatal.
A 17-year-old nephew, Anthony Flick, was received cutting injuries to the head and cuts on his arm while possibly “fighting off his attacker,” Ferman said. Anthony remained in serious but stable condition Tuesday, officials said.
Stone may have briefly abducted his daughters before leaving them with a neighbor and disappearing, officials and witnesses said. The two girls, thought to be about 5 and 7 years old, were in protective custody and a court will prboably determine who takes care of them, said Ferman, adding, “They are safe, they are secure.”
The killings and search for Stone brought back memories of a recent manhunt in the region.
Eric Frein was in the wild for 48 days as officials searched through the Poconos in September. He was eventually apprehended and charged with killing a state trooper and injuring another.
It’s unclear how long Stone was dead. His body was discovered by heavily armed searchers at 1:38 p.m. Tuesday.
A day earlier, Nicole Stone, 33, was found dead after a neighbor saw Bradley Stone fleeing just before 5 a.m. with their daughters.
Police then discovered five people killed in two other houses, in what Ferman said appeared to be a premeditated attack. She did not definitively attribute Stone’s motive to an protracted custody battle with his ex-wife.
“There’s no excuse, there’s no valid explanation, there’s no justification” for taking “six innocent lives,” Ferman said. “This is just a horrific tragedy that our community has had to endure.”
Nina and Anthony were students in the Souderton Area School District, which Ferman said was “shattered” by the attacks.
“These acts have shaken our school family to the core,” Souderton Supt. Frank T. Gallagher said in a statement to the school community, adding: “While we can’t begin to comprehend the reasons for this tragedy, I find solace in the strength and solidarity of our students, staff and community members. This tragedy has profoundly affected us, but it will not define us.”
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 had filed an emergency motion last week for custody of his children and was denied, Ferman told reporters.
"They've been fighting for years, real bad," a neighbor, Michele Brewster, told the Allentown Morning Call. "He's been tormenting her. She's gone to the police, and she has told everybody, 'He's going to kill me.'''
Stone had a current wife and child, who are safe, Ferman said.