Jacob Remaley was a 14-year-old boy who lived in New Stanton, Pennsylvania, with his mother, Dana, his father, David, and his 8-year-old brother, Caleb. Jacob was a student at Hempfield Area High School while Caleb was a third-grader at Stanwood Elementary.
Dana had grown up in Derry and she was known as a kind and generous woman who was always there for her friends. Anita Stoner said: “Our kids go to school together. She was wonderful, kind and caring. She was that person you could call at 3 a.m. if you needed Tylenol for your kids, and if she didn’t have it, she’d run to the store and buy it for you. She’d do anything for anybody.” She worked as a personal care assistant at West Hempfield Middle School and was very pro-active in parent-teacher organizations.1 David had been in the Army.
At around 5:40AM on the 30th of November, 2016, David left the family home to drive to work. Shortly before 7AM, Jacob retrieved a Ruger .380 handgun from the top of the refrigerator in the kitchen. He entered his mother’s bedroom but noticed that the weapon was unloaded. He went back into the kitchen where the ammunition was stored. He grabbed a six-round magazine and then loaded the gun.
Jacob then entered his mother’s bedroom again and shot her once in the forehead as she slept. He then went into Caleb’s bedroom and shot him once in the forehead as he slept as well.
After the murders, Jacob called 911. He claimed that his father had shot and killed his mother and brother and then placed a gun in his bed before leaving the home. “Why didn’t he kill me? I need help,” he exclaimed to the dispatcher.
Jacob then hung up before calling back and yelling. He asked why they had hung up and said he needed an ambulance.2 While on the phone to the dispatcher, Jacob had said he went into his mother’s bedroom and attempted to wake her up. He then became hysterical and said that he had blood on his hands.
When paramedics arrived at the crime scene, they found Jacob standing in the front yard. There was blood on his knee as well as a cut on his right big toe and a cut to his index finger. He immediately approached the paramedics and kept repeating the word: “Mom.”3
They provided him with a blanket and began to question him when he went back inside and brought out the murder weapon. Paramedics were not trained to handle such a situation, so they retreated and waited for police to arrive.4
While awaiting police, Jacob began to walk down the street armed with the gun. He came across a neighbour who engaged him in conversation and encouraged him to drop the weapon to which he complied. Moments later, police arrived and Jacob was taken by ambulance to Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg where he was interviewed by police.
While he initially claimed his father had committed the murders, he made a full confession to the two murders. He told Pennsylvania State Trooper Jason Morgan that if his father was at home, he would have shot him too. In regards to a motivation, Jacob simply said that he and his parents hadn’t been getting along recently. He said that he was close with his younger brother.
Jacob would be arrested and charged as an adult with two counts of criminal homicide and dirst-degree murder.
The murders would completely stun the area, in particularly those who knew the family. They described Jacob as a polite and kind boy, who received good grades and was involved in sports and church. Anita Stoner, whose son was friends with Jacob, would state: “He’s such a good kid. If you could pick a friend for your kid, it would be Jacob.”
Other members of the Remaley family would be even more horrified. They couldn’t comprehend what had happened and why. David Remaley Sr. would state: “Yeah… one day I’ll believe I’ll forgive him. I’m a pretty easygoing guy, and sometimes you can’t stop terrible things from happening.” He had been informed of the murders by his son, David.
The sentiment at a prayer vigil that night would be the same. Many in attendance spoke about their disbelief, stating that Jacob appeared to be a normal teenager. “He was a really nice kid, said Rebecca Tumulty. “He donated his hair every year for Relay for Life,” which was an event that raises funds for fighting cancer.
Dana and Caleb were laid to rest on the 4th of December. Their funeral was held at St. Bruno Roman Catholic Church in New Derry.5 The service was led by Rev. Larry Manchas, who asked the mourners to pay for Jacob.6
In the wake of the murders, Jacob was ordered to undergo mental health care. He was also ordered to be held without bond in the Westmoreland County Juvenile Detention Center.7
Early the following year, Jacob’s defence lawyer, Wayne McGrew, requested that his client be tried in juvenile court as opposed to adult court. He said that psychological testing had indicated that he was amenable to treatment in the juvenile justice system. However, District Attorney John Peck would say that a prosecution-hired mental health expert determined that he would be able to receive proper treatment in adult prison.8
The prosecution and the defence would be allowed to present arguments before Judge Christopher Feliciani on whether the case should be moved to juvenile court. They offered polarizing opinions.
The defence hired forensic psychologist, Alice Applegate, who testified that the family’s home appeared to be normal to those looking in, but the inside was ride with arguments and abuse aimed at Jacob, who as a result became depressed and antisocial. “By the time he was about 12-years-old, his ability began to split apart. Jacob, as the host, psychologically was not there.”
She said that Jacob suffered from a dissociative disorder which manifested in blackouts, memory loss and the appearance of alternative personalities. These included a witch, an old man, a little girl and a “dominant alter” known as Wrath. She said that Jacob was under the influence of Wrath when he shot and killed his mother and brother.
She revealed that when Jacob was interviewed by investigators, he had struck his head off a wall “so Wrath would come out.” Afterwards, his voice became deeper, and he spoke in detail about the murders. He had said to investigators: “I had to come in and take control. So, if you arrest me, arrest me. But don’t arrest that kid. That kid went through too much.”9
According to Applegate, the splits in Jacob’s personality had been the result of his home life. She said that his parents were demanding of him in schoolwork and chores. She stated that he was responsible for much of the housework, including the cooking, cleaning and the laundry. She said that the year before the murders, his parents gave him a vacuum cleaner as a Christmas present.
She went on to state that Jacob had fallen and sustained two concussions during his childhood and that he had nicknames for his mother: Mrs Meanie Bad Witch and Hitler. She went on to describe his father as a heavy drinker who was physically abusive towards Jacob. This was something that David himself admitted to during the court hearing. A few weeks before the shootings, they family had gone to Disneyworld and left Jacob behind at home.
District Attorney John Peck would question why Jacob had not spoken about these voices to his psychiatrist. He had attempted suicide back in 2015 and saw a psychiatrist for a year. Applegate responded: “There are many times when individuals may be hearing voices, seeing visions and experiencing disassociations. These are confusing, frightening experiences, and people don’t talk about them.”
District Attorney Peck argued that Jacob had been acting carefully and logically when he shot and killed his mother and brother, even making sure that the weapon was loaded. He said that he had killed his mother first so that she could not stop him from killing his brother.
The prosecution called on Ron Barron, a supervisor at the Westmoreland County Juvenile Detention Center. He said that Jacob had been re-admitted to hospitals since the murders and said that he no longer heard the voice of Wrath. They then called on Dr. Bruce Wright, who said he could not reach the same diagnosis as Applegate.10
According to Dr. Wright, there were far too many inconsistencies within interviews and hospital reports about when Wrath first manifested in Jacob and how many other voices Jacob heard. He acknowledged that there were classmates who spoke about Jacob changing personality at school. There were also writings in his journal in which he wrote he was pleased that his classmates thought he could be “a school shooter.”
David would testify during the court hearing and admit that he had been hard on his son but he contended he did not comprehend the effect his behaviour would have on his son. He said he was willing to help his son through his treatment.
The judge would ultimately decide that Jacob would be tried as an adult. He said that the community would be at risk if Jacob was tried in the juvenile court system.11 However, in 2020, Jacob, who was now 18-years-old, appeared in court where he pleaded guilty but mentally ill to the two murders. “I know I am guilty,” he said.
Jacob Remaley was sentenced to two terms of 30 years to life that were ordered to be served concurrent. Defence McGrew said that it would be easier for Jacob to be placed in a psychiatric institution as an adult which was why they waited until he was 18-years-old for the guilty plea. If at some point the psychiatric treatment is no longer needed, the rest of Jacob’s sentence would be served in prison.12
Jacob’s first shot at parole will come when he is 44-years-old. In handing down the sentence, Judge Christopher Feliciani said: “I am sure this is a sad day for you and your family buy you have taken responsibility for your actions. Take advantages of all the programs offered so when the day comes you are eligible for parole, you may be paroled.”
- Tribune-Review, 30 November, 2016 – “Teen Charged with Killing Mom, Brother”
- Tribune-Review, 1 December, 2016 – “Killings Shock Family, Friends”
- The Latrobe Bulletin, 2 December, 2016 – “Authorities Described New Stanton Killings as Horrific Act”
- Associated Press, 1 December, 2016 – “Teen Boy Held on Charges he Shot Sleeping Mom, Brother”
- Associated Press, 5 December, 2016 – “Funeral Held for Mom and Son Shot to Death While Sleeping”
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6 December, 2016 – “Priest Asks Mourners to Pray for Teenage Suspect”
- Tribune-Review, 23 December, 2016 – “Teen Slaying Suspect Ordered Held Without Bond”
- Tribune-Review, 26 January, 2016 – “Lawyer Wants New Stanton Teen Accused of Killing Mom, Brother Tried as Juvenile”
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 June, 2018 – “Psychologist Dissects Accused Killer’s Multiple Personalities”
- Tribune-Review, 31 May, 2018 – “Disorder Blamed in Mother, Brother’s Slayings”
- Tribune-Review, 14 November, 2018 – “A New Stanton Teenager Accused in the Execution Style Slayings of his Mother and Younger Brother”
- Associated Press, 25 February, 2020 – “Man, 18, Who was 14 When He Killed Mom, Brother Sentenced”