A year later, horror of Montco killing spree lingers
The four neighborhoods are quiet. Christmas trees shine from windows. But residents can't forget the Montgomery County deaths that shook the region a year ago, when Bradley Stone killed his ex-wife, Nicole Stone, and five of her relatives, sparking a two-day manhunt that ended with the discovery of his suicide.
The four neighborhoods are quiet. Christmas trees shine from windows.
But residents can't forget the Montgomery County deaths that shook the region a year ago, when Bradley Stone killed his ex-wife, Nicole Stone, and five of her relatives, sparking a two-day manhunt that ended with the discovery of his suicide.
The Dec. 15 killings orphaned three children - two daughters Stone had with his ex-wife, and her teenage nephew.
In the months since, relatives and the community have tried to help them pick up the pieces. Law enforcement officials also say they reviewed practices in the wake of the rampage - one unlike any other in recent history.
"No one can remember any incident of this intensity," Souderton Police Chief James P. Leary said.
Stone, 35, an Iraq War veteran with mental-health problems and three DUI arrests, had been in a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife. He received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, though a Veterans Affairs psychologist determined the week before the killings that he was neither homicidal nor suicidal.
Before dawn in Souderton, Stone killed his former sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Trisha and Aaron Flick, in their bedroom using a knife and a gun.
He killed their daughter, Nina, 14, and seriously wounded their son, Anthony, 17.
In Lansdale, Stone shot Patricia Hill, his ex-wife's grandmother, and Joanne Gilbert, his former mother-in-law, in their bedrooms.
At his third stop, in Lower Salford, he fatally shot Nicole Stone.
He drove his daughters, then 5 and 8, to his home in Pennsburg and asked a neighbor to take them to his second wife. Stone's body was found in a wooded area a few hundreds yards away.
Visits to each of the crime scenes in recent days yielded few reminders of the horror from a year ago. But it wasn't forgotten.
In Lansdale, one of Gilbert's and Hill's former neighbors said he thinks of the victims when he passes their empty porch.
"It seems kind of weird now when I walk down the sidewalk, because they always used to sit outside," said the man, who asked not to be named.
In Souderton, a new family has moved into the Flick home. A woman who answered the door of the twin home last week with a toddler behind her said she did not know the family but knew their tragedy.
Now 18, Anthony Flick is a senior at Souderton Area High School. He lives with an aunt and uncle, according to the police chief.
Leary helped the Souderton-Telford Rotary establish a trust fund for the surviving children - Anthony Flick; Stone's two daughters, Shannon and Kayla, who are being raised by extended family; and the son, now 18 months, Stone had with his second wife.
The fund has more than $300,000, Leary said.
"This is a horrible tragedy, but to see the way that the community rose to it is amazing," he said.
Even after Stone's body was discovered - he died of an overdose but also showed evidence of self-inflicted stab wounds - the killings reverberated. In the days and weeks that followed, police calls spiked, according to Leary.
"We had people who were very cautious," Leary said. "Every time they heard something that goes bump in the night, they would call us."
Stone had participated in Montgomery County Veterans Treatment Court and was not permitted to possess firearms as a term of his probation. Probation officers did not find his three guns during home visits.
After the murders, officials did not indicate whether probation or Veterans Treatment Court procedures would change. President Judge William J. Furber Jr., who presides over the veterans court, declined to comment.
Law enforcement officials did review procedures after the murders, which represented "one of the deadliest killing sprees that we've ever had in Montgomery County," District Attorney-elect Kevin Steele said.
"There was a lot of time that was spent working with public safety and analyzing the operations," Steele said, "to make sure that we are in the best position that we can be in if, God forbid, something tragic like this occurs."