Police describe ‘horrific act’ by New Stanton teen accused of killing mom, brother
David W. Remaley Sr., 74, believes one day he’ll forgive his grandson Jacob, the 14-year-old New Stanton boy charged Wednesday with killing his mother and brother.
But the entire family is having a difficult time grappling with why it happened, said Remaley, of Penn Hills.
“Yeah … one day I’ll believe I’ll forgive him. I’m a pretty easygoing guy and sometimes you can’t stop terrible things from happening,” Remaley said.
Ambulance crews arrived at the New Stanton home where the Hempfield Area High School student shot and killed his mother and younger brother early Wednesday and found the teen in the yard repeatedly saying, “Mom,” police revealed Thursday.
Jacob Roland Remaley is charged as an adult in the slaying of Dana Remaley, 46, and Caleb Remaley, 8, a third-grader at Stanwood Elementary. He faces two counts each of homicide and first-degree murder. According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Trooper Jason Morgan, Remaley shot his mother and brother with a Ruger .380-caliber handgun after his father, David, left their Thermo Village Road home for work about 5:40 a.m.
Trooper Steve Limani said Thursday that investigators believe the teen was still in shock after allegedly committing the “horrific incident” as first responders arrived.
Limani said Remaley is undergoing mental health care and will be arraigned as soon as authorities deem he is able.
District Attorney John Peck said Remaley was charged with murder as an adult because it is mandated under state statutes.
“It was an intentional act. There was an intent to kill,” Peck said.
Peck described how Remaley retrieved the handgun from the top of the kitchen refrigerator just before 7 a.m., went back to his bedroom to find it was unloaded.
State police allege that he then went back to the kitchen where the ammunition is stored “and grabbed a six-round magazine and loaded the handgun.”
“He then walked into the mother’s room where she was asleep and shot her, and then walked into his brother’s room, where he was asleep, and shot him. They were clearly both lethal shots,” Peck said.
Both victims were shot once in the forehead, according to the affidavit.
Remaley told the trooper that “if his father, David, would have been in the residence at the time … he would have shot him as well,” according to the affidavit.
David Remaley Sr. said he learned of the tragedy about 3 p.m. Wednesday when his son David telephoned.
“My wife, Joyce, and I are retired and we were watching the noon news and saw there was a homicide in New Stanton and they had a road shut off. But we didn’t put two and two together until my son, David, called at 3 p.m. and told us what happened,” he said.
On Thursday, David told his father he hoped to speak to his son that night for the first time since the shooting. He indicated the boy was at a mental health facility in Latrobe.
He said no one in the family understands how such a “mild-mannered,” “polite,” “easygoing” teenager — he was an honor student, avid swimmer and played the violin — could do such a thing.
“We have no clue. There was never, ever anything that we thought he could do something like this … nothing like that going on,” Remaley said.
Remaley said he visited his son, “who is doing as well as you could under the circumstances,” and met with state police investigators and a priest.
“They have no ideas what led to this, and we don’t know either,” Remaley said.
Friends who attended a Thursday night prayer vigil for the family at New Stanton Park also were unable to account for the tragic turn of events.
“They were the typical, all-American family,” Rebecca Tumulty of New Stanton, a friend for 15 years who helped organize the vigil, said of the Remaleys. “We’re all in shock. Our hearts break for the family.”
Her son, Nolan, 13, an eighth-grader at West Hempfield Middle School, recalled playing dodge ball with Jacob and other friends. “He was a really nice kid,” he said of the older boy. “He donated his hair every year for Relay for Life,” an event that raises funds for fighting cancer.
Michelle Cairns of Youngwood volunteered along with Dana Remaley at Stanwood Elementary School and said Remaley was a linchpin in organizing and contributing to events at the school, including a grandparents’ breakfast.
“She would come in at 5 o’clock to make the eggs,” Cairns said. “I’ve never heard that woman say, ‘No.’ Her husband was also a big volunteer. He was in the back with me washing dishes and cleaning up.”
Cairns said the Remaleys were known for taking part in activities as a family. “If (Dana) was there, her boys were there,” Cairns said. “She was always there for her boys. She put them first, and then the community, before herself.”
While a grieving community is searching for answers, Limani said that interviews with Remaley did not indicate an exact motive.
“There were some indications that he did have some recent difficulty with his parents. But there doesn’t seem to have been any tumultuous relationship whatsoever with his brother,” Limani said.
Limani said troopers’ interviews with the father indicate that Jacob had some typical teenage disputes with his parents, but “nothing that would lead to such a horrific act.”
Limani said he had no record of state police being called to the residence. He said state police could not divulge whether the teen ever had mental health treatment, “but I can tell you that he was under no type of medication.”
“It was a very horrible, sad day in Westmoreland County … for the residents who live in New Stanton and for Hempfield school district residents. This was just a horrific act for no apparent reason,” Limani said.
Police said Jacob Remaley called 911 from his home for help at 6:53 a.m. He initially told 911 operators that his father had shot his mother and brother, according to the affidavit.
“Why didn’t he kill me? I need help,” Remaley told dispatchers, Morgan reported in the affidavit.
Morgan said dispatchers reported Remaley then hung up, but he called back and started yelling, asking why they had hung up and saying he needed an ambulance.
Mutual Aid responders arrived to find Jacob Remaley in the front yard with a bloody knee, wearing only a white T-shirt and gray boxer briefs. They gave him a blanket, and he went inside the house. For safety concerns, first responders moved away from the scene and waited for troopers, according to the affidavit.
After troopers arrived, Jacob Remaley was taken by ambulance to Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, where he was interviewed by police and confessed to the killings, police said. The coroner pronounced the victims dead in their home at 9:15 a.m.
New Stanton Mayor Nicholas DeSantis and Council President Scott Sistek admitted the community is grieving and is continuing to try to grasp what happened. They said the parents attempted to instil the importance of community in the children.
“The Borough of New Stanton offers our sincere condolence to the family and friends of Dana and Caleb Remaley on their untimely passing. We are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic events that took the lives of Dana and Caleb from us entirely too early,” Sistek said.
Borough officials recalled how Dana will be remembered for the qualities she brought to the community.
“She was a dedicated and selfless volunteer at Stanwood Elementary School. Future activities at the school will now be significantly altered in her absence,” Sistek said.
“Caleb will be remembered as a fixture at his mother’s side during community events. It seemed as though there was never a moment that Caleb was without a happy, cheerful smile on his face,” DeSantis noted.
DeSantis and Sistek urged area residents to keep the Remaleys in their prayers, and to find the strength to move forward.
Longtime friend Dani Blasioli said Dana Remaley was already geting the family prepared for Christmas, stocking up on Christmas gifts for the boys during their annual Black Friday shopping excursion with Blasioli and her mother.
“It’s so sad to me that that was our last Black Friday adventure with her, our Black Fridays to come will never be the same and a constant reminder of what tragedy has taken place,” she said.
Remaley was a loving, sweet mother and was always going on vacations with her family, Blasioli said. The family regularly traveled to Forida to visit family members of Remaley’s and Walt Disney World, Stoner said.
“Jacob was a very intelligent boy, that’s why this is so shocking to us,” Blasioli said. “It’s truly heartbreaking and we just keep saying prayers for the family.”
Another friend Anita Stoner said Dana Remaley always went the extra mile.
Dana made the ears and hands for her 8-year-old son Caleb’s Halloween costume – Pluto – and would always make sure Caleb and Jacob’s boxes for Valentine’s Day cards at school parties were just perfect.
“They were just so involved in the community,” she said. “If there was a fundraiser, they were there,” Stoner said.
“I’m just so shocked. I don’t understand,” she said. “Jacob was the kid you wanted your kid to be friends with.”
She described Caleb as “fun.”
“He just had that big smile,” she said. “He was the little brother trying to keep up with the older boys.”
And he was fearless – he didn’t have any qualms about getting on the Phantom’s Revenge roller coaster at Kennywood.
“He was just so full of life,” she said
Remaley was a personal-care assistant at West Hempfield Middle School, according to the school district website.
McCauley Funeral Home in Youngwood is in charge of arrangements, Coroner Ken Bacha said.
Staff writers Jeff Himler and Renatta Signorini contributed to this report.