PENNSBURG, Pa. — An Iraq War veteran suspected of killing his ex-wife and five of her relatives was found dead of self-inflicted knife wounds Tuesday in the woods, ending a day-and-a-half manhunt that closed suburban Philadelphia 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. He had cuts in the center of his body, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.
Stone, a 35-year-old former Marine sergeant 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 killings set off the second major manhunt to transfix Pennsylvania in the past few 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 swarmed 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, and others were locked down. Veterans' hospitals and other places tightened security.
Ashley Tessier, of Pennsburg, took her sick 7-month-old son to the pediatrician in a stroller Tuesday as SWAT teams knocked on doors along her route. She said she felt she had no choice, since she postponed Monday's doctor visit because residents were told to take cover.
"Seeing all this is really terrifying — the dogs, the guns, the SWAT team," she said.
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 suffered wounds to the head and hands, 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 request for custody this month and was denied on Dec. 9, Ferman said.
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 Brewster. "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 to 2008. His 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.
Dale reported from Philadelphia. Associated Press writers Michael Rubinkam in Pennsburg and Kathy Matheson in Harleysville contributed to this report.