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Montco mass killings haunt communities

The police cars, barricades, and ambulances are long gone, but residents of the Pheasant Run apartments in Harleysville are still haunted by searing memories of mass murder.

Neighbors and friends of Nicole Stone attend a memorial prayer vigil at the LCBC Church in Harleysville. Stone and five members of her family died at the hands of her ex-husband Monday.
Neighbors and friends of Nicole Stone attend a memorial prayer vigil at the LCBC Church in Harleysville. Stone and five members of her family died at the hands of her ex-husband Monday.Read moreBRADLEY C BOWER / Staff

The police cars, barricades, and ambulances are long gone, but residents of the Pheasant Run apartments in Harleysville are still haunted by searing memories of mass murder.

"Having to go by her apartment every day and see the bullet holes" has been traumatic, Pam Truesdell, 50, said Saturday at a neighborhood vigil. A child's bike, she said, is still in the yard.

According to investigators, Nicole Stone's ex-husband went on a rampage that spanned 40 miles, traumatized three schools, killed six family members, and orphaned three children - one of the worst mass murders in Pennsylvania since 1966.

After a tense daylong manhunt, investigators found Bradley W. Stone, a Marine veteran, dead in the woods outside his Pennsburg home.

At the memorial Saturday at the LCBC Church, Truesdell wiped away tears as she remembered Stone, "a very loving mother" who was gunned down Monday in her bed.

"Our emotions have swung back and forth between fear, and then anger, and then confusion, and relief when it was all over. And then to anger again and deep, deep sadness," said Pastor Jason Mitchell. "This is not how it's supposed to be."

Before dawn Monday, police began piecing together three separate, gruesome crime scenes described in a search-warrant affidavit filed by the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office.

Officers found Nicole Stone, 33, shot at least twice in the head; her two young daughters had been taken by their father, according to a neighbor. A half-hour earlier, Nicole Stone's mother and grandmother had been found dead in their Lansdale home, one with her throat slit and the other apparently shot in an eye.

After connecting the two scenes, investigators went to check on Nicole Stone's sister in Souderton. They found Patricia Flick, her husband, and 14-year-old daughter beaten, cut, or shot to death, and their 17-year-old son, Anthony, barricaded on the third floor with a gaping head wound.

Only Anthony Flick, a student at Souderton High, survived the attack. He was in stable condition last week.

Mourners prayed for him at the vigil Saturday, and donations for him and his young cousins have been pouring in through various school, community, and church fund-raisers.

In their brutality and scope, the killings have roiled the quiet suburban communities about 35 miles north of Philadelphia.

The Montgomery County coroner has yet to confirm the causes of each person's death. But according to the search affidavit, shell casings from Bradley Stone's .40-caliber handgun were found at the three crime scenes, and the gun was found at the scene of Nicole Stone's killing.

This is one of the deadliest mass shootings in Pennsylvania in 48 years and among the worst in the Northeastern United States in decades, according to data compiled by Stanford University.

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Thursday it was her most harrowing week as a prosecutor.

"Faced with three separate crime scenes, other scenes that had to be searched, a killer on the loose, bodies, autopsies that had to be done," she said, "we had to marshal every resource that we had."

The discovery of Bradley Stone's body Tuesday afternoon eased the immediate fear in those northeastern Montco towns but left many questions.

Prosecutors said Stone apparently took his own life, and so far they have given no indication whether he left clear motives for the murder of his ex-wife and her family.

In 2010, Bradley Stone was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and Veterans Affairs officials found him "100 percent service-connected disabled." According to military records, he was in Iraq for about three months in 2008. There is no record of his having been wounded during his service.

In a court document last year, Stone said he had received inpatient treatment at the Coatesville VA Medical Center for PTSD, though he did not specify when or for how long.

VA officials said last week that Stone had seen his psychiatrist in Coatesville as recently as Dec. 8, and that the doctor reported Stone exhibited no signs of homicidal or suicidal thoughts.

He was also under the supervision of Montgomery County Veterans Court after pleading guilty to drunken driving in 2013. It was his third DUI arrest, and in 2004, he served 30 days in jail on a previous case.

Judge William Furber Jr., who supervises Veterans Court defendants nearly weekly along with a team of probation, VA, and other aid workers, said in a statement Thursday that Stone "showed no violent tendencies while in the program. Our court community is at a loss to explain his actions."

As part of his probation, Stone was not allowed to own guns. As of Thursday, court officials and the D.A. said they were unsure why Stone still had the .40-caliber handgun apparently used in the attacks.

Stone remarried last year and had a baby with his new wife, Jennifer Ovdiyenko Stone.

But since filing for divorce from Nicole Stone in 2009, their relationship had grown increasingly bitter, with a protracted battle for custody of their two daughters. Relatives and neighbors said Nicole Stone had expressed fears for her safety.

Her aunt Connie McGaughey said Bradley Stone filed an emergency petition for custody of 5-year-old Kayla and 8-year-old Shannon last week after learning that Nicole had sought treatment for drug addiction. McGaughey said that Nicole's mother had also sought custody of the girls and that the nasty fights between Nicole and Bradley were a constant topic of conversation for the family.

Andrew Radtke said he had been friends with Nicole for about 10 years and worried about her relationship with Bradley Stone "ever since they first met."

"For it to culminate this way is just far beyond what I was afraid of," he said.

A neighbor who called police after hearing gunshots in Nicole Stone's apartment said she confronted Bradley Stone as he led the girls to his car. According to the affidavit, he responded: "She's hurt. We have to go."

A short time later, the affidavit says, Stone pulled into his driveway and asked his neighbor to take the girls inside to their stepmother. The two girls were taken into protective custody, Ferman said Tuesday.

About 20 teachers from Oak Ridge Elementary attended the vigil Saturday. A second-grade teacher described Shannon, who was in her class last year, as "a gentle and loving soul."

"I think of her continually, and wish so badly I could wrap my arms around her and let her know how much she is loved," the teacher said. "This community, her school, and friends will surround her with love and goodness. And we will make it through together."


Nicole Stone, 33. Ex-wife of Bradley Stone. Shot at least twice in the head in the Harleysville apartment she shared with their two young daughters.

Joanne T. Gilbert, 57. Nicole Stone's mother. Throat slashed, possibly also shot, in her Lansdale home.

Patricia Hill, 75. Gilbert's mother, Nicole Stone's grandmother. Shot in the face, defensive cutting wounds on her arms, in the home she shared with Gilbert.

Patricia Flick, 36, sister of Nicole

Stone. Shot at least once in the head, slicing injuries on her legs, in her Souderton home.

Aaron Flick, 39. Patricia Flick's husband. "Significant" injuries unspecified in affidavit.

Nina Flick, 14. Daughter of Patricia and Aaron Flick. Massive blunt-force and cutting injuries to her face and skull.

Bradley W. Stone, 35. Ex-husband of Nicole Stone. Found dead in the woods outside his Pennsburg home. Believed to have taken his own life, but the cause of death has not been determined. Prosecutors said he had a gash in his leg and was found with medication bottles, an ax, and machete nearby.


Anthony Flick, 17. Patricia and Aaron Flick's son. Found with a gaping head wound, severed fingers. Prosecutors believe he was injured trying to defend his sister. Was in stable condition last week at a hospital in Philadelphia.

Shannon Stone, 8, and Kayla Stone, 5. Daughters of Nicole and Bradley Stone. In protective custody.

Jennifer Ovdiyenko Stone, 37. Wife of Bradley Stone. They also have a baby together.

SOURCE: Montgomery County District Attorney's OfficeEndText

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