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Stone still dead, but more questions pop up

The Montgomery County Coroner's Office said self-inflicted cutting wounds didn't cause his death. The Department of Veterans Affairs said the ex-Marine had PTSD.

Bradley W. Stone struggled with injuries, friends said.
Bradley W. Stone struggled with injuries, friends said.Read more

THE MAN WHO caused so much pain in Montgomery County this week may have gone easy on himself in the end.

At a news conference Tuesday night, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman had said that Bradley William Stone, the former Marine who brutally murdered his ex-wife and five of her relatives in Montgomery County on Monday, appeared to have taken his own life in the same violent fashion: self-inflicted cutting wounds to the chest.

But the Coroner's Office says that's not the case, and is awaiting more tests to determine how Stone died.

"There's no evidence of stab wounds, of gunshots or blunt-force trauma," said Dr. Walter I. Hofman, the Montgomery County coroner. "The cause and manner of death are pending further toxicology reports."

Yesterday, Ferman released additional information about Stone's death that may provide more clues. Two medicine bottles were found beside Stone's body, she said, one of which contained a "crushed-up powder substance."

Ferman said an "energy-drink container" also had powder around the lip. A double-bladed ax with blood on it and a blood-coated machete also were found near Stone's body, Ferman said.

Hofman said that Stone, 35, had been dead about 12 hours when his body was found Tuesday afternoon in woods not far from his Pennsburg home.

The grim discovery by police brought an end to an unnerving manhunt that began early Monday after they began following the trail of blood that Stone left behind as he moved from Souderton to Lansdale to Lower Salford Township - killing his ex-wife, Nicole Stone; her mother; her grandmother; her sister; her brother-in-law; and her niece, and critically injuring her 17-year-old nephew.

Stone had no defensive injuries, Hofman said, and the only wound on his body was a "limited" injury to his left leg. Hofman wouldn't describe the wound or discuss what type of "instrument" caused it.

"It had nothing to do with his death," he added.

First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele told the Daily News last night that a detective who attended the autopsy described the leg wound as a stab wound that was 7 centimeters deep. The body also had minor cuts, Steele said.

Hofman said he was unaware of what Ferman had told the media Tuesday night.

"I have no idea what was reported," he said. "I was not there."

Ferman yesterday said her office had been able to share only "external observations" when she discussed Stone's death Tuesday.

"There were cutting wounds but we could not ascertain how severe they were or specifically what caused his death. That is the coroner's role," Ferman said in an email. "If the coroner says the cuts were not serious enough to kill him, then we have to wait for him to make the determination of the official cause of death."

Ferman also had told reporters at Tuesday's news conference that Stone had not been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. But a Department of Veterans Affairs spokeswoman said yesterday that he was "100 percent service-connected disabled for post-traumatic stress disorder effective Oct. 28, 2010."

Stone spent less than three months in Iraq in 2008, but the spokeswoman said he received health care at VA facilities in Coatesville, Willow Grove, Norristown and Philadelphia, and at the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center in East Orange, N.J. He had met with a VA psychiatrist at the Coatesville facility a week before the killing spree.

The psychiatrist noted that Stone was "without any suicidal or homicidal ideation." Stone's last contact with the VA came last Friday through the Veterans Justice Outreach Program, which provides case management for vets who end up in trouble with the law. Court records showed that Stone had been on probation since last year after pleading guilty to driving under the influence of intoxicants.

The VA now intends to conduct a comprehensive review of his care and expressed "heartfelt condolences" to the victims of Stone's rampage.

According to an affidavit of probable cause in the case, investigators on Monday found a large bloodstain on the driver's seat of Stone's 2009 Ford Fusion.

Hofman would not comment on the amount of blood, if any, that Stone lost, reiterating that his leg injury did not contribute to his death.