Woman kills her 3 children, boyfriend, self



Jun 3, 2003
Woman kills her 3 children, boyfriend, self
Associated Press
May. 4, 2004 07:10 AM

ZION GROVE, Pa. - A woman killed her three children and her boyfriend, shooting them all in the head, and then took her own life in a deadly spree that lasted at least five hours, authorities said.

The woman, Hollie M. Gable, 39, was alive but suffering from gunshot wounds when police entered her home late Sunday night. The victims were Kenneth M. Cragle, 39; Jared Brown, 18; Kirsten Brown, 16; and Kelsey Brown, 13.

Police said Monday that they had not developed a clear motive.

"We'd certainly like to know, but it may not be a recent event," said state police Lt. Ed Snyder. "It could just be culmination of things that were going on for some time."

A motorist found the body of Kelsey Brown near Route 61 in Conyngham Township in southern Columbia County shortly before 3 p.m. Sunday. Two boys who had been fishing nearby told police they had heard a gunshot a half-hour earlier, authorities said.

Jared Brown's paternal grandmother found his body at the home he and his sisters shared with their father in Hegins Township, Schuylkill County.

After the first two killings, Gable picked up Kirsten Brown from a school event, authorities said. Her body was found in a vehicle parked outside Gable's home on Green Mountain Road.

Police theorize that Gable first shot Cragle, then killed Kelsey and Jared before shooting Kirsten either on the way back to her home or once they arrived there, Snyder said.

Gable came to the door as police arrived at the Zion Grove home around 8 p.m., but she retreated inside, after which police heard four shots, Snyder said. Police secured the area and standoff ensued, during which Gable spoke briefly with authorities by telephone.

"There was some conversation - but nothing that bore anything on the investigation or reasons or anything, really, that would mean anything," Snyder said.

Troopers entered the home three hours later to find Cragle on his bed, dead of a gunshot wound to the head, Schuylkill County District Attorney Frank R. Cori said. Two dogs inside the house also were shot to death.

Gable was alive but unconscious in a living-room chair with what Cori said were at least two self-inflicted gunshot wounds - to the wrist and knee.

A .357-caliber revolver was recovered from inside the home, located in a rural community about 85 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

Gable was flown to Geisinger Medical Center, where she died at 1:30 a.m. Monday. She never regained consciousness, leaving a team of more than a dozen investigators to comb through her background looking for answers.

"I think she did have a history of some mental-health issues," Cori said.

The children's father, Alfred Brown, was contacted and was not believed to be involved in the shootings, Cori said. There was no answer Monday at the phone at the house where the boy's body was found.

Columbia County District Attorney Gary E. Norton told reporters Monday that authorities were examining whether custody battles might have been a motive.

The Schuylkill County prothonotary's office said a custody lawsuit between Gable and Alfred Brown was filed in 1993. The most recent action in the case, which occurred in 2000, reaffirmed that Brown had primary custody of the three children and required Gable to undergo counseling "to assist her in her relationship with the children," according to court documents.

Snyder said the fact that Gable took her own life would make it harder to figure out why the shootings occurred.

"I certainly don't mean to minimize anything, but there's not going to be a trial. So if we can't come up with some of those things, it's not as critical as if she survived," he said.

At the Green Mountain Road home on Monday afternoon, a cat cried as it pawed at the door, and a goat was in a pen on the property. The single-story house was surrounded by a trim lawn and had a well-tended vegetable patch, and construction had begun on what looked like a new front porch.

The Rev. Carl D. Shankweiler, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Valley View, said Kirsten and Kelsey were "wonderful girls" who were active in the church youth group.

He said their father was struggling to cope with the tragedy.

"Obviously it's a big loss for the family. These children were extremely important to him. He was the one who had custody and he was the one raising them," Shankweiler said.

Allan Stauffer, who owns a body shop on Green Mountain Road, less than a mile from the home, said Gable moved in with Cragle about two years ago. He said Cragle worked for a company that plants roadside grass.
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