PENNSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A former Marine suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives was found dead in the woods near his suburban Philadelphia home Tuesday after a day-and-a-half manhunt that closed schools and left people on edge.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said on her official Facebook page that police found Bradley William Stone’s body. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Stone, a 35-year-old Iraq War veteran locked in a custody dispute so bitter that his ex-wife feared for her life, went on a 90-minute shooting rampage before daybreak Monday at three homes a few miles apart, authorities said.
The killing spree set off the second major manhunt to transfix Pennsylvania in recent months. Eric Frein spent 48 days at large in the Poconos after the September ambush slaying of a state trooper.
As the manhunt dragged on — with SWAT teams making their way through neighborhoods and the Philadelphia police sending in a heat-sensing helicopter — at least five schools within a few miles of Stone’s Pennsburg home closed. Veterans’ hospitals and other places tightened security.
The rampage unfolded in the towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton.
Stone’s former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found dead in her apartment after a neighbor saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their two young daughters, authorities said. The girls were later found safe with Stone’s neighbors.
Police went to two other homes and discovered five more people dead: Nicole Stone’s mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew was wounded in the head, and Ferman said he was in “very serious” condition.
Stone and his ex-wife had fighting over their children’s custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency motion this month, although the resulting Dec. 9 ruling remained sealed in court files.
Neighbors said Nicole Stone lived in such fear of her ex-husband that she would sometimes ask her apartment complex’s maintenance staff to go in and check her place first because she was afraid he might be lying in wait.
“He would call and just harass her and threaten her,” said neighbor Michele Brewser. “She shouldn’t have had to live in terror.”
“She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her and that she was really afraid for her life,” said Evan Weron, another neighbor in Harleysville.
Stone was probably wearing military fatigues and may have shaved off his facial hair, the district attorney said. She added that he sometimes used a cane or walker.
Stone was in the Marines from 2002 through 2008. The former sergeant’s occupational specialty was listed as “artillery meteorological man.”
Stone told a 2011 child support hearing that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting benefits from the agency, according to court documents.
The VA had no comment Tuesday. A longtime friend, Matthew Schafte, said he was not aware of any injuries Stone may have suffered as a Marine.
Stone had faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, one of which was handled in veterans’ court and led to a three- to 23-month sentence.
He remarried last year, according to his Facebook page and court records, and has an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.