PETERSBURG - Michael Ayers, only 2 years old, was shot to death by his father, Kenneth Robert, early Saturday morning, authorities said, when a routine visit at his grandmother's house near Petersburg in Huntingdon County turned deadly.
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 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.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Pennsylvania state police conduct an investigation of a shooting which took place outside the home of Mary Ayers in Barree Township, Huntingdon County, on Saturday. Kenneth Ayers is accused of shooting his son there in a murder-suicide.
Police said Hollie Ayers, taken to Altoona Regional, is expected to survive.
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 a physical altercation occurred between Kenneth and Hollie Ayers. 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 after the shootings, but they were able track his car to his residence near McAlevy's Fort. Ayers apparently changed vehicles, fleeing then in his truck.
Police at about 4 p.m. confirmed that Ayers was dead, noting he died of a self-inflicted wound.
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 the 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 also police will request an autopsy to determine if Ayers was under the influence drugs or alcohol.
It will be up to Huntingdon County Coroner Paul J. Shraum to determine if an autopsy is warranted.