After Bradley Stone killed his ex-wife and her five family members, he ran for the woods a half-mile from his Pennsburg home, cut himself in the stomach, and bled to death.
While the coroner has not signed off on the cause and manner of death, “Based upon what we found at the scene we believe that he died from self-inflicted cutting wounds in the center part of his body,” said Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.
It was not immediately clear how long Stone had been dead before his body was discovered.
Ferman said a knife was found at the scene, but did not know whether it was a sword.
If a sword was used, the manner of Stone’s death would resemble the seppuku, a method of suicide considered honorable by the military, or samurai, class in feudal Japan.
The 35-year-old former Marine on Monday killed his wife and five of his in-laws in a child custody dispute, before taking off with his two daughters, aged 6 and 8, whom he left, unharmed, at a neighbor’s. He was found around 1 p.m. Tuesday following a 34-hour manhunt that stretched across four towns and two counties.
Metro reported Monday night that law enforcement officials suspected Stone was already dead. Several sources speculated that Stone would commit suicide.
Besides his ex-wife, Stone killed her grandmother, mother, sister, brother-in-law, 14-year-old niece and critically injured her 17-year-old nephew in a shooting spree near Philadelphia Monday, Police said. Ferman said that considering the scope and manner of the murders, “We are looking at a intentional, deliberate killing, but in terms of … what planning was involved we just don’t know that yet.”
A nephew, Anthony Flick, who was found with cutting wounds, is at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital “in very serious but stable condition” and is surrounded by family members, Ferman said.
“I cannot emphasize how serious his condition is,” Ferman said, “but at least at this point we are hopeful that he will be fine.”
She added that Flick suffered significant cutting injuries.
“So it certainly appears to us that they were defensive in nature and that he was fighting off his attacker,” Ferman said. “How that evolved and how things transpired we don’t know and we’re hopeful that he will be OK and will be able to share that with us.”
Stone has a widow and an infant child, Ferman said, both of whom are safe. A court will ultimately determine who gets custody of Stone’s two daughters.
While Ferman could not directly link the murders with Hill and Stone’s post-marital issues, the two “had ongoing custody disputes involving the two children and that was a very contentious, protracted set of disputes and we learned that just last week he had tried to secure emergency custody of the children and that was denied.”
The killings and the custody dispute “may be related,” said Ferman.
Stone and his ex-wife, Nicole Hill, were divorced in 2009 following a volatile relationship.
“I think when it comes to why people do things. … I could look at some of the court filings and say, ‘he wasn’t getting his way and he was dissatisfied with that,’” Ferman said, “but there’s not excuse. There is no valid explanation, there’s no justification for snuffing out these six innocent lives and injuring another child. This is just a horrific tragedy that our community has had to endure.”
Stone had served as a weatherman with a Marine Corps artillery unit in Iraq, according to press reports.
Ferman said Stone was not, to her knowledge, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but said he was “in treatment and under supervision by the court system” on charges of driving under the influence.
If Stone used a sword in his suicide, the manner of Stone’s death would resemble the seppuku, a method of suicide considered honorable by the military, or samurai, class in feudal Japan, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
According to tradition, the warrior would slide a short sword into the side of his abdomen, twist it around and turn upward.
“We live here in a very peaceful community. We don’t typically deal with events like this, in particular this part of Montgomery County in the Northwestern part of the community. It’s quiet. There are families. … so to have an event like this that really shatters the peace and tranquility of the community is very disturbing. I know that folks around Souderton, Lansdale, Lower Salford (Township) and Pennsburg have just been distressed by this because it’s just not what they see on a daily basis.”
District Attorney Ferman
Nicole Hill, 33, was Stone’s ex-wife. She was shot multiple times.
Patricia Hill, 75, was Nicole’s grandmother. She suffered a gunshot wound.
Joanne Gilbert, Nicole’s mother, suffered a gunshot wound and a cut to the neck.
Tricia Flick, Nicole’s sister, suffered gunshot wounds to her arm and head.
AJ Flick, Tricia’s husband and Nicole’s brother-in-law, suffered gunshot wounds to his head and hands as well as cutting injuries to his head.
Nina Flick, Tricia’s 14-year-old daughter and Nicole’s niece, suffered cutting injuries.
Anthony Flick, Tricia’s 17-year-old son and Nicole’s nephew, suffered cutting wounds to both the head and hands.