A man who had an incestuous relationship with his daughter and fathered a child with her shot and killed her and her adoptive father in a pickup in New Milford, Connecticut on Thursday and then killed himself in New York, police said. The child, a 7-month-old boy, was found slain in North Carolina.
The man, 43-year-old Steven Pladl, and his daughter, 20-year-old Katie Pladl, had been arrested on incest charges in January and the baby boy, who was found dead in the bathroom closet of a home in Knightdale, North Carolina, was their biological child, a lawyer for Steven Pladl said.
Knightdale police Chief Lawrence Capps said, “We’re trying to make sense of all the factors that led up to this senseless taking of life.”
He said his understanding is that Steven Pladl had gone to New Milford “for the specific purpose of making some confrontations.”
It appears from a 911 call Steven Pladl's mother made that Katie Pladl had broken off the relationship with Steven.
The investigation in Connecticut started when officers responded to reports of gunfire around 8:40 a.m. in New Milford after receiving 911 calls.
"Somebody just went by and shot this guy in the truck," a man who called 911 said. He told dispatchers he saw the shooting and the shooter was in a light blue minivan with North Carolina plates.
"We were pulling up to a stop sign. He went around ... these two were behind him. As soon as he opened fire and shot these two people, he went up and around them," the caller said.
Police found two victims -- Katie Pladl and her adoptive father, 56-year-old Anthony Fusco -- inside the pickup with a window shot out, police said.
Both died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
New Milford resident Jeff Weinzievl, who lives near the intersection where Katie Pladl and her adoptive father were found, said he was feeding his horses when he heard eight shots from what sounded like a semi-automatic weapon.
Investigators were searching for Steven Pladl’s vehicle, a Honda Odyssey minivan, when he was found dead inside it several miles away in Dover, New York. Police said his death appeared to be self-inflicted.
Around the time the shooting was reported, police in Knightdale found the body of the baby, Bennett Pladl.
Steven Pladl’s mother had called police shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday, asking them to conduct a welfare check on the Knightsdale home after a disturbing phone conversation with her son, Capps said.
The woman had custody of her grandson since Steven and Katie were arrested in January and the baby was last seen alive at 8 p.m. Wednesday night.
She told police Steven Pladl had just picked his infant son up from her and told her that he and the baby were going to Skype with Katie that evening, according to police.
Steven Pladl then called his mother just before midnight and told her he was taking the baby to see Katie in New York, police said.
The next time Steven spoke with his mother was around 7 a.m. Thursday and he said that he and the baby were almost in New York.
Steven’s final call to his mother was at 8:45 a.m. and revealed chilling details.
He said he’d just killed Katie and her adoptive father, police said. When she asked about the baby, Steven told his mother he’d killed his son and left the body in his house, according to police.
Steven’s mother then immediately called 911.
“My son just called me and he told me ... oh God. He killed his baby and he’s in the house,” the woman told dispatchers.
When police went to the North Carolina house, they found the infant's body in a bathroom closet. No one else was in the home.
“Yesterday’s events were sad and devastating,” Police Chief Lawrence Capps, of Knightdale, North Carolina, said in a statement. “We may never understand the mindset or motives of Steven Pladl, but we do know his actions have shattered the lives of countless people. We pray the families affected are able to find some measure of comfort and peace as they work to cope with this senseless tragedy.”
Virginia attorney Rick Friedman, who had been representing Steven Pladl in the felony incest case, said he had breakfast with Pladl only a month ago and had no indication that such violence was possible.
“This really bothers me a lot because nobody ever could have predicted this. If anybody had a remote idea anybody was in harm’s way there would have been no bond set,” he said. “There was just absolutely no prior notice anything would happen to these people.”
As part of the bond requirements, Friedman said, the father and daughter were not supposed to communicate with one another. He said Katie Pladl had been living in New York with her adoptive parents.
It's not clear why Katie and Fusco were in Connecticut, but police believe they were running errands.
People who lived near Fusco in Wingdale, New York, described him as a great neighbor.
“He would do anything for anybody. He really would. Just a super guy. Super, super. I don't know we're going to go on without him. I really don't,” Gloria Caple said.