Six family members who were beaten to death over the weekend were attacked with so much force that each died almost instantly, a county coroner said Friday.
Jesse Dee Wise, the grandson of the oldest victim, admitted killing his relatives and dumping their bodies in the basement of the family home, police said. He was charged Thursday with six counts of criminal homicide.
Wise confessed to strangling three of the victims and bludgeoning three others, according to court documents, although Lancaster County Coroner Dr. G. Gary Kirchner said Friday “there was nobody that we could say definitely was strangled.”
“They were hit with a blunt instrument with incredible force,” Kirchner said, and the trauma resulted in “pretty much instant death.”
“I don’t think anybody suffered,” Kirchner said.
Wise, 21, lived with his grandparents in Leola, a small village in Lancaster County’s rural Amish country.
In a guitar case at the home, police found two 17-inch pieces of metal wrapped at one end with cloth, “which had the appearance of a homemade weapon/club, capable of causing death if used as a weapon,” a police affidavit said. Police said it appeared to have blood on it.
Court records show he was familiar to area police.
Previous run-ins with the law
More than a dozen charges involving Wise, including burglary, theft and agricultural vandalism, from 2004 are pending in Lancaster County Court. In September, police used a stun gun to subdue him after he allegedly punched a man and stole $20 from him at a fair. He was charged with third-degree robbery and simple assault, court records show.
Wise went by the nickname “Jay.” He has a baby daughter who lives with her mother, and he worked at a supermarket until a couple of weeks ago, said a relative, John Sean Adams.
The victims apparently died sometime last weekend, prosecutors said. They were found after Wise’s grandfather, Jessie L. Wise, 60, called Adams from New York on Wednesday and asked him to check on his family because he hadn’t heard from in five days.
Adams went into the basement ahead of police, and stopped halfway down the steps.
“They’re all dead! All six of them are dead!” he yelled, police said in court papers.
The dead were identified as Jesse Dee Wise’s grandmother, Emily Wise; two relatives believed to be his aunts, Wanda Wise, 45, and Agnes Arlene Wise, 43; two of Emily Wise’s grandchildren, Skyler Wise, 19; Chance Wise, 5; and 17-year-old relative Jessie James Wise, authorities said.
“If he killed his little 5-year-old cousin, he has no heart. He has to go down for it,” Adams, 24, told The Associated Press.
The bodies were released to a funeral director who was taking them to Brooklyn, N.Y., Kirchner said.
The suspect’s grandfather is a founding member of the Federation of Black Cowboys, a New York group that introduces inner-city children to horses.
“There is nothing ... that could have given us any clue that there was anything going on with his grandson,” said Warren Smalls, the federation’s spokesman.