Mother, daughter stabbed to death by man facing trial on child assault charges

A man facing trial on child sexual assault charges fatally stabbed a woman and her 16-year-old daughter ‘to silence them’ because they were set to testify against him, a prosecutor said Friday, calling it an ‘absolute attack on the system.’

Leeton Jahwanza Thomas is also accused of stabbing the woman’s 15-year-old daughter in the rampage early Thursday in East Drumore Township, Pennsylvania, leaving her hospitalized in critical but stable condition, authorities said.

A 13-year-old daughter wasn’t home at the time.

‘It’s an absolute attack on the system, which is an attack on all of us,’ Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said at a news conference Friday.

Stedman continued: ‘Clearly one of the most disturbing crimes we’ve had. It’s a nightmare.’

Thomas, who goes by the nickname ‘Pie,’ was charged in April with molesting the 13- and 16-year-olds at his home in December 2013, according to case documents.

An upstairs neighbor who called 911 on Thursday after hearing screams said the 15-year-old immediately identified Thomas as the culprit, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

‘Pie did it,’ she told neighbor Jennifer Hershey, according to the affidavit.

The girl told Hershey she had known Thomas her whole life, and they had spent time at each other’s homes. Her mother was friendly with his wife, Stedman said.

‘It’s not a coincidence he targeted this residence,’ Stedman said. He believed the motive to be ‘retaliation — to silence them.’

Thomas, 37, is charged with two counts of criminal homicide and one count each of attempted homicide and burglary.

He is jailed without bail pending a June 22 preliminary hearing.

No lawyer was listed for him in court records Friday.

Hershey’s father, Robert Ulrich, told The Associated Press that Thomas has been battling medical problems for about two years that left him partially blind, an illness that a relative of Thomas’ wife described to the LNP newspaper as a pituitary brain tumor.

He had once been a talented carpenter and is a married father of four, Ulrich said.

The medical problems seemed to weigh on Thomas, Ulrich said.

The Thomases rent their home from Ulrich.

‘He was always a nice guy. Personally, I think everything got to be too much for him,’ Ulrich said at his farm, situated between the Thomas and Hershey homes.

He said his daughter let the victims use her basement apartment.

The mother worked part time in a notary office but struggled with diabetes, Ulrich said.

She has been identified as Lisa M. Scheetz. A Go Fund Me page set up to help the family idenitfied the daughter as Hailey Scheetz.

A lawyer representing Thomas in the sexual assault case was said to be out of town and did not immediately return a telephone message.

No one answered the door at his rented home on a dairy farm, which has a backyard pool and trampoline.

‘It’s just unbelievable. A nice friendly neighbor like that, doing something like that. It’s just unbelievable,’ neighbor Ben Stoltzfus, an Amish farmer, said as he loaded kale into a wagon.

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