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Pennsburg Locked Down for Manhunt
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Writer
2014-12-17

Community attempts to get back to normal after killing spree

Tuesday morning dozens of police searched properties in the surrounding vicinity for Stone.

        In the days after authorities found the body of Bradley Stone, the Pennsburg man believed to have killed his ex-wife and five of her family members while seriously wounding another, a community is attempting to return to life as normal.

        Businesses in the center of town, many of which closed their doors as dozens of law enforcement agencies ascended into the normally quiet borough Monday morning, are open for business.  Area schools have resumed normal classes and activities.  Kids can be seen out at their bus stops and chasing each other down the street.   

        But up until the discovery of 35-year-old Stone's body in a wooded area in Upper Hanover Township, between Western Auto at 1523 Pottstown Avenue and the rear of the 1400 block of W. 4th Street around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, it was a completely different scene.

        Heavily armed PA State Troopers, tactical response teams from across Montgomery County, US Marshalls Task Force and other law enforcement agencies performed a grid search of the area, beginning Tuesday morning to look for the suspect who claimed the lives of his former family members in Lower Salford, Souderton and Lansdale.  They searched in unsecured outbuildings but did not enter homes.

        Monday saw a daylong effort by tactical teams searching both Stone's home at 37 4th Street, which he shared with his wife and infant son, and his garage.  Many of the family's neighbors awoke to unfamiliar sights and sounds Monday morning.

        Patrick Suter said he opened his front door to walk his stepdaughter, a third-grader at Hereford Elementary, to the bus stop and was met by a SWAT vehicle and armed officers preparing to breach Stone's home.

        "You don't expect that to happen on the streets of Pennsburg.  Fallujah, yes, here no," said Suter, a 17-year military veteran.  "I didn't know what was going on.  I was incredibly nervous and anxiety was high because we weren't getting anything from police."

        Suter said he took his daughter out a basement door and drove her to school, away from all the activity by law enforcement.  After schools let students out around 4 p.m., as tactical teams continued a breach on the suspect's home, Suter said he sheltered his daughter in the basement.

        "I wanted her in a safe location in case bullets started flying," he said.  "She was frightened."

        The next afternoon Stone was found dead, with apparent self-inflicted "severe cutting wounds" to the center of his body, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.  Ferman said she couldn't say how long the body had been at the location or who found it.

        As the discovery was made public, residents said they were glad to hear the ordeal was over.

        "The manhunt being over is a relief to my family as well as many others I have spoken with," said Pennsburg resident David Wojs, who had to pick up a daughter from an area daycare which closed early as well as another child from Hereford Elementary Monday.  "Situations like this occurring in smaller communities such as ours are unfortunately a reality that we must face.   While no one wants this to occur in our community it is comforting to know that there is a well-trained and staffed police presence that can quickly and efficiently diffuse the situation."

        A custody dispute over Stone's two daughters, ages 5 and 8, with his ex-wife, Nicole Stone Hill, appears to be a major factor in the killings, but Jake Leone remembered Stone as a dedicated father who was always patient with his children.

        "All he wanted to do was be with his kids," said Leone, founder and administrator of Vets for Vets, a transitional home for military veterans based across the street from Stone's house.  "He was a good father.  I know he supposedly had a temper, but I never saw it around his kids."

        Leone said he and Stone had a "neighborly, working relationship" and he even asked the Marine vet, who was briefly deployed to Iraq, to serve as a liaison at one time for the non-profit as Stone had ties to area VFW and Legion posts.

        Leone added that while Stone never lived at the Vets for Vets home, volunteers from the facility did take meals to the his home on occasion, help him with shoveling snow and moving heavy furniture as his health deteriorated, as well as drive him to Veterans Affairs (VA) appointments.

        He said Stone respectfully declined any invitation to participate in Vets for Vets' programs or any of their events.  

Leone said Stone's health issues were not due to any combat injuries but that he was seeking treatment for an unrelated condition which left him needing a cane.

        A variety of media outlets previously disclosed that Stone's unit, while deployed in 2008, never saw combat or sustained injuries.  Ferman said Tuesday he was not being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

        Upper Perkiomen School District and The Perkiomen School, which were in a "lockout" mode Monday and closed Tuesday, opened Wednesday.

        "We are certainly relieved that the situation has ended and proud and grateful of our parents, students and staff and how everyone came together," said Upper Perkiomen Acting Supt. Timothy Kirby. 

        Kirby said counselors were available to students throughout the day Wednesday to address any concerns they might have.  On Monday schools held students and staff in their respective buildings until law enforcement gave administrators clearance to re-open their doors. 

        Students at Upper Perk schools were dismissed from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. and spent the extra time playing games and watching movies, Kirby said.

        Pennsburg Mayor Vicki Lightcap said she was glad to see Monday's and Tuesday's events come to a swift, non-violent conclusion.

        "It's a shame that things like this have to happen but we protected our residents and came to a resolution, with the help of county.  We can be really proud of Pennsburg and our Upper Perk Police.  We have a very good police department."

        Stone is accused of shooting his ex-wife in the face and head, Ferman said in a press conference Tuesday night.  Her mother, Jo Anne Koder, was shot and cut in the neck, and her grandmother, Patricia Hill, was shot in the arm and the head. Stone Hill's sister, Trish Flick, was shot in the face and cut, brother-in-law Aaron "AJ" Flick was shot in the head and hands; and Stone's 14-year-old niece Nina died of cutting wounds.

        Stone Hill's 17-year-old nephew, Anthony Flick, is in serious but stable condition in a Philadelphia hospital with cutting wounds, authorities said.  They believe he tried to fight off the attack. 

Stone reportedly took his daughters from his ex-wife's Lower Salford home during the killing spree but later dropped them off at a neighbor's home in Pennsburg.

        Ferman said it is shocking to see this type of premeditated killing, especially in this part of the county which is family-centered. 

        "We can speculate why…but there's no excuse. There's no valid explanation. There's no excuse for snuffing out these six innocent lives and then injuring another child," Ferman said.  "There is no justification for this horrific tragedy this community has had to endure."

        The Stone and Flick Children Fund, organized to raise money for the Stone daughters and for Anthony Flick, has been established through Univest Foundation in partnership with Word FM and the Souderton-Telford Rotary Club. 

        Information on donations can be found at WordFM.org or through the rotary club.  Questions can be directed to Univest Foundation at (215)721-2405.


 

 

 

 

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