Hours after authorities began investigating the shooting deaths of three people in the central Pennsylvania township of Quincy, the man later charged in the case admitted to state police that he'd "messed up."
The suspect, Kevin Cleeves of Waynesboro, Pa., said that in retrospect he never should have gone to the home of his estranged wife's boyfriend Friday night, even if he was concerned about the welfare of his 4-year-old daughter.
Because there, authorities alleged, he quarreled with his wife and her boyfriend in front of the girl and was told to leave but instead opened fire, shooting to death the two adults as well as the man's mother. He then fled with the girl 250 miles to Austintown, where he was arrested and his daughter was recovered safely.
Cleeves was charged with three counts of criminal homicide in the deaths of 25-year-old Brandi Cleeves, 28-year-old Vincent Santucci and 55-year-old Rosemary Holma and was awaiting an extradition hearing. Court records listed no attorney for him.
Mahoning County Jail officials said Cleeves will need to face local charges in Austintown before an extradition hearing can be scheduled. He is due in court this afternoon to face charges of improperly handling firearms in a vehicle and DUI.
Detectives declined to say where his daughter, Leia, was on Sunday.
Cleeves, 35, was headed for Michigan in hopes of getting the girl to his aunt's house, according to an affidavit filed in court in Pennsylvania.
He called his aunt about an hour after the slayings, and he was "drinking and mad," she told police. He admitted to her that he was behind the shootings and she called police.
Cleeves got as far as Austintown, where he was arrested in the parking lot of the Best Western hotel near state Route 46 and Interstate 80.
Austintown Chief Bob Gavalier said Saturday that when officers discovered Cleeves was at the hotel, they tried to set up a perimeter and call in the Mahoning Valley Crisis Response Team to help arrest him, but Cleeves drove away, which forced the officers on hand to stop him.
Cleeves drove to Walgreen's on Mahoning Avenue, while police were still watching him.
"Two officers from the law enforcement task force were there at the time and ordered him out of the car," Gavalier said. "He actually put his hand up in the car and was pointing at his daughter, like my daughter's in here. Please don't shoot."
The girl wasn't harmed, but police think she may have witnessed the shooting.
Santucci's father, Vincent L. Santucci Sr., told The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., that his son, a chef, had only known Brandi Cleeves for little more than a month but they had a positive energy between them.
"He was a kind person, loving son and brother," he said.
Santucci Sr. said his former wife was a wonderful mother who had put herself through nursing school and found her calling as a nurse.
"We think she died running to help her son," he said.
Tribune news partner WYTV 33 contributed to this report.