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7-year-old girl killed in apparent murder-suicide in Manayunk, police said

Police said the girl was found by her stepfather around 10:55 a.m. with a bag over her head in the living room of a home on the 4500 block of Wilde Street. The girl's father was also found dead in an apparent suicide.

Kayden Mancuso, 7, was found dead at her father's home Monday in Manayunk.
Kayden Mancuso, 7, was found dead at her father's home Monday in Manayunk.Read moreKayden Mancuso family

A 7-year-old girl was found dead Monday in a Manayunk house in an apparent murder-suicide that may have resulted from a custody dispute, police said.

The girl, Kayden Mancuso, was found by her stepfather about 10:55 a.m. with a bag over her head in the living room of a home on the 4500 block of Wilde Street.

 >>READ MORE: Months before Kayden Mancuso's death, mom reported girl 'didn't feel safe' with her father

Her father, Jeffrey Mancuso, 41, was found unresponsive inside a second-floor bedroom in what Homicide Capt. John Ryan called an apparent suicide.

Ryan said the girl's relatives checked the house because she was supposed to have returned to her mother's home in Langhorne on Sunday. The father and mother had been engaged in an ongoing custody disagreement, Ryan said.

"Very brutal and tragic," he said.

Both the girl and her father were declared dead at the scene at 11:07 a.m., police said.

The tumultuous custody battle and disturbing details of the father's history of violence were laid bare in a May 21 order by Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger awarding primary custody to the girl's mother, Kathryn Giglio, but allowing visitations by Mancuso.

The order mentions Kayden personally witnessing her father's violent behavior when he was frustrated or angry, including "punching the family dog," screaming at Kayden, and punching himself in the face.

In 2012, Mancuso bit part of a man's ear off while at a bar in South Philadelphia on New Year's Day, the judge's order states.

"I beat him up, he put me in a headlock, and I bit down on his ear and took off the top part of his ear," Mancuso told a court-appointed psychologist.

Mancuso was found guilty of aggravated assault, and served a sentence of house arrest, court records show.

Last October, he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. His case was still pending with a trial date scheduled for Sept. 5

The psychologist diagnosed Mancuso with "major depressive disorder, moderate with anxious disorder and identified narcissistic and antisocial personality traits."

Mancuso also was "experiencing disordered sleep, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal ideation."

The order mentions that Mancuso had multiple communications with Kayden's teacher and school principal that "were rude, belittling, abusive, and condescending."

His behavior prompted the Pennsbury School District in Bucks County to send Mancuso a certified letter from a lawyer advising him "to cease and desist all communications with the school."

Mancuso was banned from being at the school except to pick up his daughter, outside the building.

Nonetheless, the court said that Kayden "presents as a happy kid with a generally normal relationship with both parents despite the volatile relationship they have with each other."

In the judge's order, Mancuso was granted partial physical custody, including every other weekend from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday.

A GoFundMe page was launched Monday night by Jennifer Sherlock, the sister of Kayden's stepfather, Brian Sherlock, seeking financial help for the girl's funeral.

The page states: "Kayden's mother trusted that the law and the court system would work for her daughter's best interests. However, the system failed and she was taken too soon. Kayden's mother was told to trust the process, but the door was slammed in her face time after time."

Philadelphia police also were faulted for not doing more when Kayden was reported missing.

"Nothing can bring back this vibrant, outgoing, loving child," the page states. "Kayden excelled at every activity she was involved in. Kayden recently made the Pennsville U10 softball team as a 7-year-old. Kayden excelled in soccer, gymnastics and basketball. She was taken too soon and will never have the chance to lead the life she was meant to live."

Please spread the word. My niece was a star in so many ways. She had the best personality, she won pageants, and just…

Posted by Jennifer Sherlock on Monday, August 6, 2018

In Manayunk, neighbors said Mancuso had lived in the home for many years. But they said they knew he was in the middle of a custody dispute and depressed.

One neighbor, Raymond Goyle, 29, said Mancuso was a nice guy, but added that he knew Mancuso used to argue with Kayden's mother.

Another resident of the block, Kevin Dougherty, 29, said police had been called to the neighborhood several times.

Administrators at the Pennsbury School District sent an email to parents Monday,  informing them of Kayden's death and the availability of grief counseling this week for students and families at the school. The girl was scheduled to enter second grade at Edgewood Elementary in Yardley later this month.

"I am completely heartbroken about the situation, and my heart aches for Kayden's family, especially her mother. No mother should have to experience this type of pain," Jacqui Redner, president of the district's board of directors, said in a statement to the Inquirer. "The entire school board is shocked and heartbroken, and our prayers go out to the entire family."

Staff writers Vinny Vella and Robert Moran contributed to this article.