PETERSBURG - A Belleville boy is dead and his mother hospitalized after the boy's father, Kenneth Robert Ayers, shot them early Saturday morning during a routine custody visit at a house near Petersburg in Huntingdon County, authorities said.
According to Huntingdon County District Attorney George Zanic, the 52-year-old Ayers would go to the home of his mother, Mary Olive Ayers, on Saturdays for a custody exchange and supervised visit with his son, Michael, but yesterday Ayers began fighting with his estranged wife, Hollie Jo Ayers, of Belleville, who arrived with the boy.
He shot her in the legs, right arm and face.
Police said Hollie Ayers was taken to Altoona Regional Medical center, where a nursing supervisor said she was listed in stable condition as of Sunday evening.
After killing his son and disabling his wife, Ayers shot at his mother and missed.
He fled the rural home and was on the lam for several hours before a State Police Special Emergency Response Team found his body in his parked truck, located in a wooded area off Route 550 in Warriors Mark Township.
"Words can't describe the scene ... heartbreaking," Zanic said as he fought his own emotions while standing outside the well-kept ranch-style home of Mary Ayers.
It was a sunny, blustery day, the extreme violence of the incident belying what otherwise was a quiet overlook of the Shavers Creek area of Huntingdon County, at the intersection of Greenwood Road and Manor Hill Road in Barree Township.
According to Zanic, Kenneth Ayers, known as Robbie, was under a protection from abuse order that prohibited contact with his wife, yet he was permitted to visit his son at the mother's house on Saturdays.
Police said Kenneth and Hollie Ayers were fighting when he pulled a .40-caliber handgun and shot her in each leg and the right arm, and then, police said, he grabbed the 2-year-old, intentionally killing him. He placed the boy in the back of his car, at which point the wounded Hollie Ayers retrieved the boy's body. That's when he shot her in the face and shot at his mother.
Authorities received a call of "shots fired" at about 9 a.m. and police went to the residence.
Police don't know where Ayers went immediately after the shootings, but they were able track his car to his residence near McAlevy's Fort. Ayers apparently changed vehicles and fled in his truck.
At about 4 p.m., police confirmed that Ayers was dead, noting he died of a self-inflicted wound. According to a report, Ayers' body was found in a wooded area off state Route 550 in Warriors Mark Township.
Although no suicide note was discovered, Zanic said evidence was found inside Ayers' residence indicating he had taken some actions last week which give authorities reason to believe the attack was preplanned.
Both Hollie Ayers and Mary Olive Ayers were able to give police statements about what occurred at the home.
All of the violence, Zanic emphasized, occurred outside.
State Police Cpl. Daniel Sneath said the investigation will continue despite Ayers' death. He said police want to know why this incident occurred.
Another question is why Ayers was carrying a gun, Sneath said, noting he was under a protection-from-abuse order.
He said police would request an autopsy to determine if Ayers was under the influence drugs or alcohol. Huntingdon County Coroner Paul J. Shraum confirmed that autopsies will be performed on Ayers and his son today.