Pennsylvania shooting: Police find body of suspected gunman Bradley William Stone in suburban woodland

Police were searching for Stone  in connection with the deaths of six people

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The Independent US

Police have discovered the body of an Iraq War Veteran in suburban woodland in Pennsylvania, two days after he was suspected of shooting six of his relatives.

Bradley William Stone is suspected of killing his ex-wife, her mother, grandmother, sister and two other family members, including his 14-year-old niece. His 17-year-old nephew was seriously wounded in the attacks and hospitalised, but is in stable condition.

The 35-year-old’s body was found a half-mile from his Pennsburg home, around 30 miles (48  km) northwest of the US city of Philadelphia. Police believe he died from self-inflicted knife-wounds, as he was found with cuts in the centre of his body, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said.

The rampage unfolded in three homes in the towns of Harleysville, Lansdale and Souderton - which are just miles apart.

The subsequent manhunt prompted school lock-downs around Pennsburg, about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Philadelphia, while Veterans' hospitals and other places tightened security. Residents were advised to stay inside with their doors locked.

At one stage, SWAT teams stalked through neighbourhoods, and the Philadelphia police made use of a helicopter with a heat sensor to track the gunman.

Stone is believed to have launched his rampage by breaking into his ex-wife’s house at around 5am, before shooting her and fleeing with their two daughters. The children, aged 8 and 5, were later found safe with Stone's neighbours.

The veteran and his ex-wife had been battling over their children's custody since she filed for divorce in 2009. He filed an emergency request for custody this month and was denied on 9 December, Ferman said.

Neighbors said Nicole Stone lived in such fear of her ex-husband that she would sometimes ask her apartment complex's maintenance staff to go in and check her place first because she was afraid he might be waiting for her.

“He would call and just harass her and threaten her,” said neighbor Michele Brewster. “She shouldn't have had to live in terror.”

“She would tell anybody who would listen that he was going to kill her and that she was really afraid for her life,” said Evan Weron, another neighbor in Harleysville.

Stone was in the Marines from 2002 to 2008. His specialty was listed as “artillery meteorological man.” Stone told a 2011 child support hearing that Veterans Affairs deemed him permanently disabled and that he was collecting benefits from the agency, according to court documents.

The VA had no comment Tuesday.

A longtime friend, Matthew Schafte, said he was not aware of any injuries Stone may have suffered as a Marine.

Stone had faced several driving-under-the-influence charges, one of which was handled in veterans' court and led to a three- to 23-month sentence.

He remarried last year, according to his Facebook page and court records, and has an infant son. Neither his wife nor the son was injured. Nicole Stone became engaged over the summer, neighbors said.

The killings set off the second major manhunt to transfix Pennsylvania in the past few months, after Eric Frein spent 48 days at large in the Poconos following the September ambush slaying of a state trooper.

Additional reporting by AP and Reuters