IN AN ACT of unimaginable narcissism, a Bucks County man used a suburban mass murderer's crime spree to draw attention to himself on Monday while authorities were still on the hunt for the killer, the Bucks County District Attorney's Office said.
Luke Sanderlin, 34, a married father of three, has been charged with false reports to police, causing or risking a catastrophe and related offenses for claiming he'd been accosted by killer Bradley Stone while he was out walking his dog in Doylestown about 7 p.m. Monday.
Prosecutors said they believe Sanderlin made up the lie to draw attention to himself and an "unsuccessful" fundraiser he's holding.
The false report caused a large contingent of officers from Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties to descend on Doylestown, searching in vain for Stone, who killed his ex-wife and five of her relatives in three separate Montgomery County locations early Monday morning. Stone was later found dead by his own hands behind his Pennsburg home.
But while the manhunt was still going on, Sanderlin called 9-1-1 shortly after 7 p.m. and said that he had been confronted near the Stonginton Farm apartment complex on Whitehall Drive near Commons Way at knifepoint by a man who looked like Stone and had demanded his car keys.
Sanderlin said he fired three shots at the attacker and claimed his dog bit the man before he ran into a wooded area, police said.
As a result of his reports, several area buildings, including the apartment complex, were placed on lockdown. A resident of the apartment complex, whom police knew had a previous relationship with Stone, especially came under heat during the search, although it was later learned that man had not seen Stone since July 2013.
As the Montgomery County case unfolded and Bucks County investigators looked into Sanderlin's story, it began to unravel.
Sanderlin was inconsistent with his version of events, police said, and he couldn't explain why someone would try to carjack a pedestrian. Along with many other inconsistencies, when Stone's body was found there were no dog-bite marks anywhere on him, police said.
Authorities learned that Sanderlin claims to suffer from "intractable refractory migraine headaches," and that he's trying to raise $20,000 online and through a beef-and-beer fundraiser at the Philadelphia Fire Department Union Hall for a surgery.
On his GoFundMe site, where he has raised $2,098, Sanderlin claims that he is a "firefighter, EMT, Hazardous Materials Technician, skydiver, rock climber and overall active person," although he does not detail where he works.
As investigators conducted interviews with Sanderlin's neighbors, one of them claimed that in a conversation with Sanderlin's wife on Dec. 10, she griped about how little money they'd raised and said they needed to raise more funds, "even if it meant making up a story, 'Like saying that he had cancer or something,' " according to the arrest affidavit.
In interviews with police, Sanderlin said that he had been following the search for Stone all day Monday and was even monitoring police radio communications out of Montgomery County with his cellphone. When police seized the phone, they discovered that Sanderlin had downloaded a press release about the search, which included Stone's photo.
Aside from diverting manpower from the investigation and costing authorities precious time and money with his false reports, Sanderlin also put the public at risk by firing his gun three times in the air while outside that night to back up his story, police said.
Now, instead of raising money for a surgery, Sanderlin has to raise money for bail, which a judge set at 10 percent of $250,000.
"We are still counting the costs in taxpayers' dollars wasted by Mr. Sanderlin," Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said in a statement. "There is no accounting for the emotional stress felt by many Central Bucks residents as a result of the alert and lockdown which the police were forced to call as a result of Sanderlin's hoax."