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Police: Mother of abducted girl among Pennsylvania shooting victims

July 28, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • Kevin Cleeves, shown here in an undated photo provided by the Pennsylvania State Police, killed three people before fleeing with his daughter, police say. Cleeves is now in custody, and the girl is safe.
Kevin Cleeves, shown here in an undated photo provided by the Pennsylvania… (Pennsylvania State Police )

Three people shot to death in southern Pennsylvania on Friday night have been identified as the shooting suspect's estranged wife, his mother-in-law and another man, police said Saturday.

Kevin Cleeves, 35, of Waynesborough, Pa., faces three counts of criminal homicide and awaits an extradition hearing in connection with the Friday night deaths of his wife, 25-year-old Brandi Cleeves; her mother, 55-year-old Rosemary Holma; and 28-year-old Vincent Santucci.

As an affidavit tells it, the night’s events began when Cleeves' estranged wife wouldn’t answer her phone or return his calls. Cleeves said he had been trying to make plans to pick up his 4-year-old daughter; finally, he drove to Santucci's house in Franklin County, just over the Maryland line, to make sure his daughter was safe, according to the affidavit.

Around 9 p.m. Friday, according to an account from WHPTV in Pittsburgh, Cleeves found his wife, their daughter and Santucci sitting in a car outside the house.

Santucci reportedly ordered Cleeves to leave, but he didn’t. Instead, he shot Santucci in the car and, when Cleeve’s wife tried to get out of the car, he shot her as well, according to the criminal affidavit. When Holma, Santucci’s mother, ran up to him outside the house, he shot her, the affidavit says.

Cleeves then seized his daughter and fled in a teal Chevrolet Cavalier, police reported.

All three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Pennsylvania State Police issued an AMBER Alert, which provided information about  Cleeve and his Chevrolet to authorities and the public.

During the search, Cleeve’s aunt from Eaton Rapids, Mich., called authorities to say Cleeve had contacted her and confessed to shooting the three adults.

The AMBER Alert was canceled soon afterward when local police in a small city near Youngstown, Ohio, found Cleeves.

His Chevrolet was parked in the lot of a hotel off I-80, where a cluster of businesses cater to interstate travelers, Austintown officers said. The car left the area and was stopped in the parking lot of a Weston Plaza hotel nearby. Cleeves was arrested. The girl was in the car and unhurt.

Cleeves later told authorities he was headed for a relative’s house in Michigan so his daughter could stay with his aunt.

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Follow Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com


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