Chambersburg triple murder suspect extradited from Ohio

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Two Franklin County sheriff's deputies will go to Ohio today to bring back a man accused of gunning down his estranged wife, her boyfriend and the boyfriend's mother 10 days ago in a small Pennsylvania town just north of the Maryland border.

The boyfriend, Vincent "Luke" Santucci Jr., 29, grew up in Avalon and attended Northgate High School. His mother, Rosemary Holma, 55, was from the Pittsburgh area, and both still have family there.

Triple-murder suspect Kevin Cleeves, 35, will face a preliminary hearing within a week on three counts of homicide in the July 27 slayings of Mr. Santucci, Ms. Holma and Mr. Cleeves' wife, Brandi Cleeves, 25, from whom he was separated.

He waived extradition last week and will be returned to the Franklin County jail outside Chambersburg, officials said.

State police said a dispute over the Cleeves' 4-year-old daughter, Leia, led to the killings, which occurred in Quincy, where Mr. Santucci and his mother lived. The child was present at the time of the shootings but wasn't hurt.

Mr. Cleeves, of Waynesboro, had gone to Mr. Santucci's home to talk to his wife about custody of their daughter.

Mr. Santucci and Ms. Cleeves had been friends and were dating for about two months, said Mr. Santucci's father, Vincent L. Santucci Sr., who lives in Gettysburg.

They were sitting in the younger Mr. Santucci's car outside his house at the time of the shootings. Ms. Holma was shot when she rushed to help her son, state police said.

After the shootings, Mr. Cleeves took Leia and fled to Austintown in northeastern Ohio. He was on his way to Michigan to see his aunt, police said, adding he had called his aunt and had said he'd been "drinking and mad'' at the time of the shootings.

Mr. Cleeves told state police he had been drunk and had "messed up" on the night of the shootings, The Associated Press has reported. The shootings started after Mr. Santucci told Mr. Cleeves to leave, the AP said.

Franklin County District Judge Larry Pentz, who will preside at Mr. Cleeves' hearing, said that as of last week Mr. Cleeves did not have a lawyer.

"A lot of lives were screwed up by this idiot," Mr. Santucci's father told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He said his son had told state police about threatening text messages he had received from the suspect but said state police told him there was nothing they could do.

The younger Mr. Santucci was a chef at a Chambersburg restaurant, where Ms. Cleeves also worked. Ms. Holma, who was divorced from Mr. Santucci's father, was an emergency room nurse at Chambersburg Hospital.

The Santucci and Holma families have long lived in the Pittsburgh area.

Luke Santucci lived in Avalon for many years with his mother, father, brother Jacob, and sisters Sarah and Bethany.

"Our roots were always tied to Pittsburgh," Vincent Santucci said.

Vincent Santucci studied at the University of Pittsburgh and then worked for the National Park Service as a geologist and park ranger. Over the years, he worked at national parks in Arizona, South Dakota and Wyoming, where Luke went to middle school.

Luke's sister, Sarah Ryan of Brookline said, "He was incredibly loving, like a big teddy bear. He got along great with kids."

She added, "My mother and brother never hurt anyone in the world. My mother had an open door policy -- if anyone needed anything, she was always there to help."

The Santuccis moved back from the western states to Avalon when Luke was in high school, and he spent two years at Northgate High School.

Mr. Santucci said his son was a considerate person, adding, "I think a part of Luke's kindness and wanting to help came from his mother. It's so hard to realize that she died coming to help and save her son."

Mr. Cleeves worked at Martin's Potato Rolls in Chambersburg.

The company has contributed $5,000 to a scholarship fund set up for Leia.

Correction/Clarification: (Published August 7, 2012) Triple-murder suspect Kevin Cleeves is from Waynesboro, Franklin County. A story Monday about his arrest and extradition from Ohio listed an incorrect hometown.

Tom Barnes: or 1-717-623-1238.


You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here