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Pennsauken father kills two sons, critically wounds third, before being shot dead by police

On the surface, all appeared normal. The Motons - Alfred, Leonor, and their three sons - lived in a small home in Pennsauken, didn't appear to have financial problems, and never had run-ins with police.

On the surface, all appeared normal.

The Motons - Alfred, Leonor, and their three sons - lived in a small home in Pennsauken, didn't appear to have financial problems, and never had run-ins with police.

Alfred Moton was a dental assistant in Berlin. His wife worked at a hospital. Their two youngest, Stephen, 12, and Charles, 16, were in parochial schools; the oldest, Alfred Jr., 18, attended Rowan University.

Late Thursday night, something went wrong, sending the elder Moton into a rage. Neighbors heard gunshots and screams. One of them looked out a window to see the house on fire and a young man run out.

In the backyard, police officers found Moton holding a .22-caliber handgun and lighter, a gasoline container nearby. A neighbor said the officers shouted: "Put it down! Put it down!" He didn't, and about a half-dozen shots rang out.

In the end, Moton, 54, was killed by police officers after fatally shooting two of his sons and seriously wounding the other. His wife's elderly father was rescued from the burning house; Leonor Moton was working at the time.

On Friday, police investigators tried to piece together the events that led to the shootings and hoped to interview the surviving son, Charles, who was in critical condition at Cooper University Hospital with a gunshot wound to the chest.

"We have to find out more from the boy who survived," said Jason Laughlin, a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. "Anything else is conjecture."

By Friday afternoon, a picture of life in the Moton home was emerging that suggested there had been problems. On his Facebook page months ago, Alfred Moton Jr. expressed concerns about his father:

"My dad is talkin about how the H1N1 shots are a setup for 2012, just like in [the movie] I AM LEGEND, and he's talkin about how the government is makin a DEATHSTAR to destroy earth to regular the population, gawd he's so crazy, nuffin gonna happen anyway lmao."

Friends and neighbors of the Motons said the elder Alfred Moton was abusive toward his family and rarely interacted with neighbors.

His son, Alfred Jr., "was one of the nicest people I've ever known," said Melanie Kettelberger, who graduated with him from Camden Catholic High School. "I know he had a tough home life, but he was always smiling.

"[He] never said anything about physical abuse," said Kettelberger, whose father works at The Inquirer. "He said he would come home, and his dad would say things."

Another classmate from Camden Catholic, Ariana Williams, said Alfred Jr. once told her, "Me and my dad, we don't get along."

Alfred Jr. was living at home while commuting to Rowan, where he was a biology major, said his friend Tiffany Jones, 20. He worked part time at a McDonald's restaurant and recently bought a car.

"He was very outgoing; he had a very big heart," Jones said, adding that abuse in the home led Alfred Jr.'s mother to contemplate divorce.

Chaudron Carter, who lives next door to the Motons on Royal Avenue, said the elder Alfred Moton barely spoke to neighbors. He usually left the house about 6:30 a.m. on weekdays and came home in the evening.

"We figured he had a lot of control, because when he was around, [the children] wouldn't speak," she said. "We figured he was crazy, but we didn't think he would do this to his kids."

On Thursday, Abe Stevens was going to sleep about 10:30 p.m. when he heard gunshots, then screaming.

Stevens, 64, looked out his window and saw a young man run from the Motons' burning home and scamper over a tall fence.

Moments later, he saw police confronting someone and heard their demands for him to "put it down!" Then came a series of gunshots that killed Alfred Moton Sr.

The three sons apparently were gunned down in the house, authorities said, and two of them fled before collapsing on the street.

Carter said she heard three to five gunshots from the house and later a woman scream from nearby Beacon Avenue: "Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"

David Lee, who lives on Beacon, got his flashlight and went outside. He saw Charles lying face-down at the end of Lee's driveway. The teenager was shirtless, wearing jogging pants and sneakers, and bleeding from the mouth, Lee said. A police officer arrived and performed CPR. "I pray that that little boy makes it," Lee said.

Alfred Jr.'s body was found on Henwood Avenue.

Jerry Blackman, who lives a couple of blocks away on Witherspoon, was walking his dog, Max, when he also heard about five gunshots.

"Then I saw smoke billowing from the fire; you could smell it," Blackman said. He was "scared and went home," he said, because he thought he might be in danger.

On Friday, walking his dog again, Blackman returned to the scene. "It's terrible," he said. "It's unbelievable what people do."

Across the community, many were stunned by news of the shootings and they offered praise for the Moton boys, especially at their schools.

Alfred Jr. and Charles were "very, very good students, academically, and very involved in the school," said Tom Kiely, principal of Camden Catholic High School.

Alfred Jr. acted in school plays, was a member of the choir, and also was active in the school's Retreat Program, which focuses on spiritual development, Christian leadership, and community-service projects. Charles was "equally involved in school," Kiely said.

At the high school Friday, Msgr. Andrew Martin led the morning prayer and informed students of the shootings.

"He recognized the tragic nature of it and asked the kids to offer prayers to God for the souls of the departed, to support the family, and for their own consolation," Kiely said. The students "are upset in waves, as they process the information."

Grief counselors were called in to help the 800 students.

Mass on Friday at St. Stephen's Catholic School was dedicated to the youngest son, Stephen, a sixth grader there. All the students were together when they learned the news.

Deanna Levito, who has three sons, was picking up her youngest two hours before the 12:30 p.m. dismissal Friday. Her eyes were swollen, and she sniffled as she said that she and other parents had just left grief counseling and that she had attended the Mass at the school.

"My son was in the same class as the youngest," she said, calling the 27 or 28 kids in the sixth grade a "close-knit group" that's been together since prekindergarten. "It's so close to home. I feel helpless that I don't know how to help" her son.