Family dispute leaves 4 dead near Altoona
John and Roberta Frew led a quiet life in rural Cambria County that was shattered with the arrival of their estranged daughter and her husband at the modest, vinyl-sided home.
Police said John Frew told them that two intruders broke into his Allegheny Township home Friday night and fatally shot his wife and son. Frew, 67, in turn, shot the intruders, police said. Frew then called 911.
The intruders were his daughter, Josephine Ruckinger, and her husband, Jeff, both of Blandburg.
State police have yet to release the names of those involved, though their identities were confirmed by town residents and family members.
Jeff Ruckinger, 55, died at the scene; Josephine Ruckinger, who was shot in the head, died at Altoona UPMC Trauma Center.
Police are trying to determine a motive for the shootings.
“We really don't know yet about the details of the shooting,” said Brian Ruckinger, 46, of Altoona. He said he knew his brother and his sister-in-law had problems with her family.
Police found the body of Roberta Frew, 64, in the front door and the body of John Frew Jr., 47, in the kitchen. Jeff Ruckinger's body was found in the kitchen, and Josephine Ruckinger, who was still alive, was found in the living room.
State police have planned a news conference at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Ebensburg barracks.
The younger Frew was recovering from knee surgery and had been visiting his parents from his nearby home along Bottom Road, less than a mile off Route 53, just outside Ashville.
“John was a pretty serious man. I liked John a lot. I miss him,” said Larry Shomo of Dysart.
Shomo attends Richland Bible Church, about 15 miles from the Frew home, where Frew Jr. was a deacon.
Roberta Frew's sister, Virginia Cruse, told The Associated Press that Josephine Ruckinger harbored “a hatred toward her family.” She said the estrangement began when Josephine Ruckinger was 20; she trashed the family's home, stole some valuables and headed to Pittsburgh.
A search of court records found no criminal record for Josephine Ruckinger.
Brian Ruckinger said his brother and sister-in-law had been married for a few years and had no children.
The shootings were the talk of Ashville, a town with a population of about 230, as people went about their business along Liberty Street, the main road. It is lined with taverns, auto-repair shops and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post and enveloped by tree-covered hills.
Joe Speranza, an employee at JoeLynn's Deli & Pizza and Gulf gas station on Liberty, described Ashville as a “very quiet town” with mainly retirees and some railroad workers.
“It's an older town. There's no industry here,” he said. “Gosh no, we're not used to this. It's very unusual for this to happen over here. You would never think anything like this would happen.”
The victims' home, accented by black shutters, sits back from Bottom Road, almost obscured by trees. Two vehicles were parked outside, but no one answered the white front door — a door marred by a faint trace of what appeared to be blood.
John and Roberta Frew were friendly but not outgoing, said Bill Dibert, a church deacon.
Some people said they had not seen them for decades, although John Frew Jr. was known to drop off freshly laid eggs — at no charge — at a local funeral home where he had a pre-paid plan.
Cambria County Coroner Dennis Kwiatkowski's office did not return telephone calls seeking comment. District Attorney Kelli Callihan also could not be reached.
Jeff Ruckinger worked as a truck mechanic, his brother said.
John Frew Jr. was a self-employed electrician. An avid hunter, he fell in a groundhog hole and injured his knees. He had recently undergone surgery, Shomo said.
Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Kari Andren to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Roundup: Wealth gap largest on record, Pew study shows; McDonald’s in Japan limits orders of fries; more
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Chryst returns home, named football coach at Wisconsin
- West Mifflin soccer fields nearly done, but play will be delayed
- West Mifflin man charged with risking catastrophe
- Philly DA says no affidavits claimed by AG Kane in bribery case existed
- Pederson’s 2nd tenure as the athletic director at Pitt comes to abrupt end
- Steelers notebook: Brown leads WRs in Pro Bowl voting, Bell 2nd at RB
- Son charged in dismemberment death of mother, stepfather in Penn Hills
- Connellsville Area High School Chamber Ensemble awaiting word on sing-off
- Home of LeNature’s exec up for sale