PENNSBURG, Pa. — An Iraq War veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives in a shooting and slashing frenzy was found dead of self-inflicted stab wounds Tuesday in the woods of suburban Philadelphia, ending a day-and-a-half manhunt that closed schools and left people on edge.
Bradley William Stone's body was discovered a half-mile from his Pennsburg home, about 30 miles northwest of Philadelphia. The 35-year-old former Marine sergeant had cuts in the center of his body, and some kind of knife was found at the scene, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.
Locked in a custody dispute so bitter that his ex-wife feared for her life, Stone went on a gruesome, 90-minute killing rampage before daybreak Monday at three homes in three nearby towns, authorities said. He bashed in the back doors of the first two homes and then smashed his ex-wife's sliding glass door with a propane tank.
The killings set off the second major manhunt to transfix Pennsylvania in the past few months. Survivalist Eric Frein spent 48 days on the run in the Poconos after the ambush slaying of a state trooper in September.
"There's no reason, no valid excuse, no justification for snuffing out these six innocent lives and injuring another child," Ferman said. "This is just a horrific tragedy that our community has had to endure. We're really numb from what we've had to go through over the past two days."
Stone's former wife, 33-year-old Nicole Stone, was found shot twice in the face in her apartment after a neighbor heard glass breaking and saw Stone fleeing around 5 a.m. with their two young daughters. The girls were later found safe with Stone's neighbors.
Also killed were Nicole Stone's mother, grandmother, sister, brother-in-law and 14-year-old niece. A 17-year-old nephew suffered knife wounds to the head and hands, and Ferman said he was in "very serious" condition.
The adults were shot. The teens were slashed and suffered blows to their heads; the nephew had a gaping skull fracture, authorities said.
"It's a relief that they found him," said Stone's neighbor Dale Shupe. "Now we know he's not out trying to do more harm to anybody else."
As the manhunt dragged on and SWAT teams swarmed through neighborhoods, at least five schools within a few miles of Stone's home closed, and others were locked down. Veterans' hospitals and other places tightened security.
Candy Rumford, whose family lives near where authorities found Stone's body, described SWAT helicopters "hanging above our house, hovering right over here in these woods."
Neighbor Alyssa Hettrick said the whole town had been on lockdown. She said authorities had tried to evacuate her home but her family has three dogs and decided to stay.
"So, it's kind of a huge shock to know that he was there all night while we were inside," she said.
Stone and his ex-wife had been fighting over their children's custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency request for custody this month and was denied Dec. 9, Ferman said.
Neighbors said Nicole Stone 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.
"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, a neighbor in Harleysville.
Stone was in the Marines from 2002 to 2008. His specialty was listed as "artillery meteorological man."
At a 2011 child support hearing, he said that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting VA benefits, according to court documents. The VA had no comment Tuesday.
Ferman said Stone sometimes used a cane or walker. She said she had no evidence he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Stone faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, and Ferman said he was undergoing treatment through veterans' court as part of his sentence.
Stone remarried last year and had an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.