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Names released in Middletown double murder-suicide; 7-year-old among dead; vigil planned

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 1/7/19

A 7-year-old boy was one of the people who died in the double homicide-murder in Middletown last week, Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick announced Monday, and a candlelight prayer vigil has been …

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Names released in Middletown double murder-suicide; 7-year-old among dead; vigil planned

Posted

A 7-year-old boy was one of the people who died in the double homicide-murder in Middletown last week, Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick announced Monday, and a candlelight prayer vigil has been planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday in front of the apartment building to help the healing process.

Middletown police released the names of the two adults involved in the double murder-suicide Monday afternoon — Marvin Caddell, 49, and his estranged wife, Nightflower Staats, 44 — and called it a “domestic incident.”

Caddell is suspected of killing the two before turning the gun on himself, authorities say. The 7-year-old was their child. His name was not released.

The three bodies were discovered Saturday night in the apartment building at 134 S. Union St.

According to a press release, the coroner said the double homicide-suicide occurred Wednesday, “approximately.” Their bodies were not found until a welfare check Saturday.

“What precipitated the welfare check, I’m not exactly sure,” Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo told the Press & Journal on Sunday.

There will be an investigation into the timeline of the murder-suicide and any statements the apparent perpetrator might have made, Chardo said. 

“But by all accounts it appears he killed the two people and took his own life,” he said.

Borough police had been called to the scene early Saturday evening to do a welfare check, only to discover multiple fatalities. 

Chardo said he new of no calls to police from residents of the building at the time of the murder-suicide despite at least three gunshots being fired in the apartment.

Police and members of the Capital Region Forensic Unit were seen going in and out of a multi-story apartment building just south of the M&T Bank on South Union Street on Saturday night. The building has 16 apartments on multiple floors.

On Facebook, Mayor James H. Curry III posted a link to a Crimewatch post regarding the incident Saturday and wrote, “Please be advised and say a prayer for those lives lost.”

Building owner plans vigil

The other tenants who live in the building, as well as all area residents, are invited to the vigil Wednesday, “to come out and be in community with one another, and to start to process what happened,” George Crist, who owns the building, told the Press & Journal on Monday. Crist is organizing the event.

“When things of this nature occur, it’s usually somewhere else. It’s not your neighbor. It’s just really, really hard to understand,” said Crist, a Harrisburg-based information technology entrepreneur who acquired the building in 2014.

Crist said that he knew all three “pretty well.”

“All of my interactions with them were relatively normal, so this was very unexpected,” Crist said.

The family lived in the building for less than a year, Crist said. They were not from Middletown originally.

Crist recalled seeing the father and the son together fairly often. There was nothing to suggest that the man was anything less than “a caring and loving father,” Crist said.

The boy would see Crist and say, “Hey, Mr. Landlord!” Crist said. “He seemed like a perfectly normal happy kid.”

Crist said that, on Saturday night, he had received a message from the property manager of the building.

He told Crist that he had been called by Middletown police to open the door of an apartment.

Police had been asked to go to the apartment to do what authorities say was a welfare check at the residence. However, police were not getting an answer.

About 20 to 25 minutes later, Crist got another call from his property manager saying that police had discovered fatalities in the apartment.

The manager at that time could not tell Crist who they were, because as soon as the bodies were discovered police had ushered the property manager out and were treating the apartment as a crime scene.

Crist learned the identity of the three residents when he arrived at the building at about 10:30 p.m., and the police shared with him what had happened.

While a neighbor was quoted in a published report saying that the welfare check was a result of an odor coming from the apartment, Crist said it was his understanding that that odor had come from another apartment, possibly from food on a stove.

‘Really nice family’

“They seemed like a really nice family,” said John Morant, who is the property manager at the building.

Morant said he knew that Caddell and Staats had separated.

Otherwise, he didn’t know of any issues or problems that could have led to what happened. He said he had not gotten any complaints about the family from any other tenants.

“I never knew him to be an angry kind of guy,” Morant said of Caddell.

Morant doesn’t live in the building, so he didn’t see the couple and their son very often. The mother and the father both seemed quiet.

The child was the most talkative of the three. Morant used the words “happy,” “smiling,” “lively” and “very bright” to describe him.

Morant said he last saw Caddell sometime in December, when Morant was having a refrigerator delivered to another apartment in the building.

Staats had moved out in October. Morant said he did not know that she had come back.

When police asked him to open the door to do a “welfare check” of the apartment, Morant said police told him that a pastor had asked them to check on the family. The pastor was concerned that the family had not been seen for a couple of days, Morant said police told him.

Morant remembered seeing Caddell’s car, so he figured Caddell was home. When police opened the door, Morant could see Caddell’s body on the floor. Morant said he immediately backed away from the door.

Boy didn’t attend MASD schools

Lori Suski, superintendent of the Middletown Area School District, told the Press & Journal via email Monday that the boy did not attend school in the district.

Other MASD students reside in the apartment building where the double murder-suicide took place, however, Suski said. On Sunday, district staff who know of those students reached out to their parents to ensure that those students were all safe.

The principal and counselor at Fink Elementary School checked in with each of those students again Monday and contacted their parents to see if they needed counseling, but according to the principal, no one indicated a need, Suski said.

“Although the child did not attend our schools, the loss of any child, especially in these circumstances, is heartbreaking,” Suski said. “Thoughts and prayers are with those who mourn.”

Processing what happened

Like everybody else, Crist is having a difficult time processing what happened to the three people in his apartment building.

“You can never make sense of these sorts of things,” he said.

He’s had the weekend to start processing it, Crist said, and about all he can resolve in his mind is that “all people are capable of great good, and also capable of inflicting tremendous harm.”

The three people were among about 40 people total who live in 16 apartments in the building.

Crist described the residents as “a diverse mix” that includes some members of the refugee community from Burma, some individuals, and some small families.

Most of the apartments have turned over at least once in occupancy since Crist bought the building nearly five years ago. There are one or two tenants who are still here who were living in the building then.

Crist never has trouble finding tenants when someone moves out. The building is in a great location, he said, right across from the Karns grocery store and in walking distance or a short drive from a number of small businesses.

“It’s been very successful from the standpoint of finding tenants,” he said.

“We’ve really built a nice community here. These are good folks,” Crist added, referring to all of the tenants collectively who live in the building.

Improvements made

When Crist bought the building in 2014 he told the Press & Journal that he did so because he wanted to be part of what was happening in downtown Middletown, and what he expected would be happening.

The downtown streetscape project was wrapping up, and since then the Elks Building has found new life with the Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works.

Crist after buying the building sunk more money into the property for improvements, inside and out. He is leasing the retail space on the first floor to a tattoo parlor.

“We’ve done a lot here to try and improve this part of Middletown. The community has obviously invested a lot. All the right things are happening in the community that everyone should be proud of,” Crist said.

Crist said he will have coffee, hot chocolate and soup for anyone coming to the vigil Wednesday.

He suspects he will need more than “a Thermos” of hot chocolate, but he’s fine with that.

“If a lot of people come out to celebrate this family, that is going to be a good problem. That would be all right,” he said. “There’s a way to build a stronger community in all of this.”

Reporter Laura Hayes contributed to this story.