Triple murder suspect arrested in Avondale
● By J. Chambless
By John Chambless
A man wanted in connection with a triple murder in West Virginia was quickly arrested in Avondale Borough in the early morning of June 14, thanks to quick thinking, good timing and a great deal of luck.
Erick David Shute, 32, allegedly shot three men to death with a rifle on the border of land he owns in Great Cacapon, W.Va., on the morning of June 13. The property is near a state park in rural Morgan County. According to news reports from West Virginia, Shute shot the men when they were clearing wood from a roadway next to Shute’s property. A fourth man escaped, police said. Morgan County Sheriff Vince Shambaugh was quoted in local news reports as saying Shute called himself a “sovereign citizen” and that Shute had tried to recruit people to help him build a compound stocked with guns and ammunition to prepare for the end times.
Shute was a former vocalist for a death
metal band called Pyrexia, which formed in 2007 and has released a
series of CDs with titles such as “Cruelty Beyond Submission” and
“Sermon of Mockery.” In 2009, Shute was living in Salem County,
N.J., and attracted controversy by hanging an American flag upside
down as a distress signal for the nation. In 2011, he was indicted
for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting
As Shute drove north in his white Chevy pickup truck after the shootings, he allegedly posted a Facebook message saying that the killings were in self-defense because the men had threatened him. The post, which has since been deleted, read: “I have nothing to hide. Media can contact me on my cell. I am open to talk. These guys stole over $20,000 of my stuff and sold it for drugs and threatened me to my face before. They even unscrewed my brake line while I was asleep. Everyone not on drugs on the mountain hates them. These are known thieves and drug addicts.”
West Virginia police alerted police in Chester County because Shute was known to have contacts here.
Chief Gerald Simpson, of the New Garden Police Department, picked up the story during a phone interview on the morning of June 15.
“We were contacted by Pennsylvania State Police at 9 p.m. to be on the lookout for the perpetrator,” Simpson said. “We were told he was heavily armed and extremely dangerous, and that he may be heading to the Avondale area because he has contacts here.”
That same evening, Corporal Joe Greenwalt was with Officer Ben Brown, who was training with the New Garden department. Together, they stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation at
Fifth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Officer Ryan Kushner was called to assist, “and as he was en route to the location, he had a photo of this perpetrator and a vehicle description in his car,” Simpson said. “A couple of minutes later, he sees a vehicle fitting the description being driven into Avondale. So Officer Kushner gets on the radio and alerts Corporal Greenwalt about what he sees. Officer Kushner starts a traffic stop, but he notices that the vehicle is trying to evade him. Not speeding, but trying to get away.
“The traffic stop is conducted in Avondale Borough, three blocks away from where Greenwalt and Brown are,” Simpson said. “The two stops were unrelated, but we ended up with three officers who just happened to be in the area. Talk about things working out,” Simpson added.
Kushner drew his gun and ordered Shute out of the car. Shute complied as Greenwalt and Brown arrived. “At that point, Greenwalt is the senior officer, so he takes over,” Simpson said. “At gunpoint, he asks Shute his name and he identifies himself. He's ordered to the ground and taken into custody without further incident.”
Shute's truck was impounded. Simpson did not say if Shute was armed, or if there were weapons in the truck, citing the ongoing investigation.
Shute was arraigned at the Pennsylvania State Police Avondale Barracks and he is being held in Chester County Prison, awaiting extradition to West Virginia to face murder charges.
“Here's the thing,” Simpson said. “While Officer Kushner has a little more than three years with us, we invest a lot of time and money in training our officers to a very high level. When this happened, his instincts and his training kicked in. I was talking to him yesterday, and he said, 'We really got lucky last night,'” Simpson said. “I will not deny that luck is a police officer's best friend on a lot of days, but good officers make their luck. They go out and find it. At the end of the day, Shute was apprehended because Officer Kushner was being very observant. He used the skills he has learned in the last three years to bring this suspect into custody without further incident. That's not being lucky. He made it happen. All three officers deserve accolades.”
The arrest brought a quick end to what could have been a volatile confrontation, Simpson said, “But while we're pleased to bring closure to this for West Virginia police, it saddens us that these things happen. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims.”
In a June 14 post on the Pyrexia band Facebook page, a band representative wrote: “As we watch this event unfold, we are shocked and saddened to learn that our former singer Erick has been involved in what seems to be a shooting by his own hands. Although all the details have yet to unravel, and he hasn't been an active member of Pyrexia for some time now, we have been rocked by this horrible news. There's no question the man had obscure views and was an odd and quiet person at times, but you try and accept a persons shortcomings or different viewpoints. No one saw this in him.”
To contact Staff Writer John
Chambless, email firstname.lastname@example.org.