WHO WILL tell the 17-year-old boy at his hospital bedside that his mother, father, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt are dead when - and if - he wakes up?
Who will kneel and take the boy's hand gently into theirs, telling him that things will be OK, never knowing if they really will?
Who will acknowledge that he'll never again look forward to Christmastime?
And will they be able to tell the boy that the man he once called uncle, the man accused of slaughtering his entire immediate family, has been captured?
In yesterday's predawn hours, Bradley William Stone, 35, a military veteran from Pennsburg, Montgomery County, systematically killed his ex-wife, Nicole Stone, and five other members of her family in three separate shooting scenes throughout the county, authorities said.
Then he disappeared.
The only survivor of Stone's rampage was his nephew Anthony Flick, 17. He was shot in the head, according to a family member, but his condition was unknown last night.
Stone's whereabouts also remained unknown. However, about 7 p.m., a man out walking his dog on Burpee Road in Doylestown was approached by a man who may have been Bradley Stone.
According to Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, the suspect "accosted" the dogwalker, brandishing a knife and demanding that he hand over his car keys. The unidentified victim, who has a concealed-carry permit, pulled out a gun and fired at the attacker, who fled into nearby woods, Heckler said.
It was unclear if the shots struck the attacker, who also may have been bitten by the resident's dog, Heckler said.
Investigators wouldn't confirm whether the subject of their search was Stone, but considered it "a strong possibility," due to "similarities" between the two men, Heckler said.
In a statement released later last night by Doylestown Township, the suspect in that incident was described as a white man, about 5 feet 10, wearing camouflage.
Suburban authorities called on Philadelphia Police's Tac Air helicopter for help in the search for that suspect. The chopper was called because it is equipped with thermal-imaging technology that can detect body heat.
The long, brutal, bloody day began about 4:25 a.m., when police responded to a 9-1-1 hang-up call at the house where Nicole Stone's mother and grandmother lived on West 5th Street in Lansdale. Both women were found slain inside, said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.
Just 30 minutes later, at 4:55 a.m., Montgomery County authorities received a 9-1-1 call from Nicole Stone's neighbor at the Pheasant Run Apartments on Main Street in Lower Salford. Responding officers found Nicole Stone, 33, dead inside her residence, Ferman said.
After allegedly killing his ex-wife, Bradley Stone grabbed his two young daughters from her house and dropped them off at the home of one of his Pennsburg neighbors about 5 a.m., police said.
That was the last confirmed sighting of Bradley Stone, Ferman said.
"It's of great significance that the children are safe right now," she said.
While investigating the two scenes, authorities received information that led them to the Souderton home of Patricia Flick, Nicole Stone's sister, shortly before 8 a.m., Ferman said.
In a day filled with grisly crime scenes, authorities found the grimmest one at Flick's house.
Found dead inside were Flick; her husband, Aaron; and their daughter, Nina, 14. Anthony Flick, their son, was found with a gunshot wound to the head, according to a relative, and he was rushed to an undisclosed Philadelphia hospital, where he remained last night in unknown condition.
Although police discovered the Flick family crime scene last, that shooting is believed to have been the first, around 3:30 a.m. yesterday, Ferman said. It's unclear whether Bradley Stone next targeted his ex or the matriarchs of her family.
Sometime after dropping his daughters off at a neighbor's house, Stone ditched his car and his cellphone, which later were recovered by police at an undisclosed location, prosecutors said.
Authorities said Bradley Stone had closely cropped red hair and a red beard, but had shaved both as of Sunday night. He is 5 feet 10, 195 pounds, and may use a walker or a cane. He also may be wearing military fatigues, police said.
Stone served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from 2002 through 2008, according to Capt. Eric Flanagan, a public-affairs officer with the Marines.
He was discharged in 2011 at the rank of sergeant, said Flanagan, who was unable to describe "the character of his discharge."
While in the Marines, Stone was deployed to Iraq and was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal, according to Capt. Maureen Krebs, another public-affairs officer.
Court records show that Stone pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of intoxicants twice, in 2003 and 2013, and is on probation for the latter charge.
On his Facebook page, Stone says he likes AC/DC and "The Walking Dead," and he has many tributes to fallen soldiers and veterans, specifically in the Marine Corps.
His favorite sayings include this one from USMC Gen. James Mattis:
"Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet."
Confusion reigned throughout the day as Montgomery County residents tried to make sense of the bizarre scenes playing out in their neighborhoods.
For a good chunk of the morning, people were under the impression that Stone was holed up in a house in Souderton.
About 11:45 a.m., a loud explosion echoed through the neighborhood. Within moments, an armored vehicle sped by, carrying a wounded person who neighbors assumed was Stone.
The person was loaded into a waiting medevac helicopter.
Towamencin Township Police Chief Tim Dickinson said that Stone wasn't in the property, after all.
He declined to comment on the condition or the identity of the wounded person who had been taken from the house.
"Police went there this morning to check the well-being [of the residents] and they saw movement in the house, and that indicated the suspect might be in the house," he said.
With the Souderton site cleared, investigators turned their focus to Bradley Stone's house, about 20 minutes away on a narrow, sloping street in Pennsburg.
A Marine flag swayed in the wind outside the twin home.
Officers used a megaphone to talk to Stone, if he happened to be inside.
"Bradley. This is the police. Come out with your hands up. You're under arrest," they said repeatedly.
Numerous streets around his house were barricaded.
At one point, the officers took an instrument to ram into the front door.
No sound or signal came from inside.
In Lansdale, where Stone allegedly gunned down Nicole Stone's mother and grandmother, neighbors said Nicole's grandmother was named Patricia Hill. Her mom was Joanne, but neighbors didn't know her last name.
Neighbor Corlie Stills, 62, said that after Bradley and Nicole Stone split, they apparently had a custody battle over their two children, who Stills and his wife, Barbara, said were both young girls.
"Nicole and her ex-husband weren't getting along," Stills said.
"They seemed to have a lot of spats," his wife added.
"He'd come over to get the children and sometimes the police were called," Stills said. "He wasn't trying to get back with her. He came to get his children."
The couple said that sometimes Stone would show up at the house dressed in Marine fatigues.
"He seemed like he was a gentleman, though. He never acted like a butthole around me," he said.
"They had been separated quite some time."
After dusk fell last night, police tape still cordoned off the section of the Pheasant Run Apartments where Nicole Stone was shot dead.
"I just know her to see her around, she has two little girls," one woman said through her cracked front door several yards down the road from Nicole Stone's apartment. "I have fear. I worry for the children."
The woman, who has lived in the complex since 1997, said the apartments are usually quiet. She asked that the Daily News withhold her name because she was afraid.
Another neighbor who lived nearby sat outside smoking a cigarette. That woman, who also requested anonymity, said she and others in the complex were fearful last night knowing that an apparently deranged Bradley Stone was still on the streets.
"It's scary. I don't know where or what he could be doing right now," she said. "It's crazy and just so sad for the kids."
- Staff writers Vinny Vella and
Jenny DeHuff contributed
to this report.