Dread and uncertainty hung over Montgomery County, north of Philadelphia, early Tuesday as authorities hunted for a former Marine reservist suspected of killing his ex-wife and five former in-laws.
Schools closed and families huddled behind locked doors not knowing if shooting suspect Bradley William Stone of Pennsburg was still in the area.
“We do not know where he is,” said District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman. “We do not have vehicle information. We actually recovered his vehicle and his personal cellphone so we do not have information how he might be traveling.”
With so much unknown, the Upper Perkiomen School District called off classes.
“Due to the fact that law enforcement still seeks the whereabouts of an armed and dangerous local resident, Upper Perkiomen schools will be closed on Tuesday, December 16th,” an announcement on the district’s website said. “Decisions regarding re-opening of school will be made on a daily basis.”
Doylestown Township Police thought they had a sniff of a lead Monday night after a man resembling Stone tried to rob a man who was out walking his dog.
The man with the knife demanded the other man’s car keys, but fled after a struggle. The man with the dog had a gun and fired multiple shots at the suspect who was last seen running from the area, police said.
Authorities with K-9 units swarmed the scene, ordering residents to stay barricaded in their homes, but called off that search after about an hour.
“The shelter in place advisory is being lifted. Please continue to be vigilant. Get some sleep,” the Doylestown Fire Company said on Twitter.
The dead included Stone’s ex-wife and her mother, grandmother and sister, as well as the sister’s husband and 14-year-old daughter, Ferman said.
The sister’s 17-year-old son was wounded and was being treated at a Philadelphia hospital.
But Stone didn’t harm his two daughters, who were living with his ex-wife. He took them to a neighbor’s residence in Pennsburg, the last place he was seen, according to Ferman.
She didn’t provide a motive for the slayings. Stone was described as armed and dangerous.
According to Montgomery County court documents found online, the Stones divorced in 2009.
911 hangup call started investigation
The killings broke the calm in several small towns in Montgomery County, the second wealthiest county in Pennsylvania and the 51st wealthiest in the United States, according to the county government web page.
An early morning 911 hangup call first tipped off police to the situation, directing them to Lansdale, 28 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
When police arrived, they found two slain women: Stone’s former mother-in-law and former grandmother-in-law, Ferman said.
A short time later, a neighbor of Stone’s ex-wife called 911, Ferman said. Police went to an apartment in Lower Salford and found 33-year-old Nicole Stone dead.
“I heard three or four gunshots and I heard the kids yelling, saying, ‘Mommy, no. No, mommy, no.’ And he just said, ‘Let’s go. We gotta go,'” a neighbor who did not want to be identified told CNN affiliate WFMZ. “I heard him say, ‘Let’s go. We gotta get in the car.'”
“They didn’t have any coats on or anything,” the neighbor said. “They just had their pajamas on, and he just said, ‘We gotta go.’ He was like, ‘She’s hurt. She’s hurt pretty bad. We have to leave.’ And just got in the car and sped off.”
At 5:30 a.m., about an hour after the initial 911 call, Stone delivered his two daughters to a neighbor in Pennsburg, Ferman said.
“That was the last time he was seen by anyone,” she said. “I think it’s of great significance the children are safe right now.”
About 8 a.m., police went to the home of Nicole Stone’s sister, Patricia Flick, in Souderton. Officers found Flick, her husband and the couple’s 14-year-old daughter dead, Ferman said.
The sister’s 17-year-old son was wounded and was being treated at a Philadelphia hospital, Ferman said.
Suspect led American Legion post
Stone served as a reservist in the U.S. Marines until 2011, mainly as a meteorologist, according to the Marines. He spent a few months in Iraq in 2008.
William Schafte of Harleysville, who described himself as a friend, called Stone a “good guy” who helped people who needed money or a hand, according to the Morning Call newspaper of Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Stone served as president of the American Legion William E. Hare Post 206 in Lansdale about a decade ago, said the current post commander John Gillmer, the Morning Call reported.
“He was always on the honor guard and stuff like that for parades,” Gillmer told the Morning Call. “I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it. … I never would have thought it was one of our guys.”