UNION TOWNSHIP, Lawrence County — State police say two boys witnessed the stabbing death of an 8-year-old boy Monday night.
The boys, ages 15 and 8, told police they were home alone playing video games upstairs in their family’s house on High Street when they heard someone enter. They went downstairs to see Keith L. Burley Jr. there with two other boys, and he was holding a gun, according to a report they gave the police.
The older boy told police he knew Burley from past meetings he had with their mother, according to a criminal complaint against Burley. He said Burley instructed them to look for the magazine of the gun and they ran into a bedroom to search.
When the teenager came out of the bedroom, police said he thought he saw Burley hitting one of the young children. When they got closer, they saw he was stabbing 8-year-old Mark Edward Mason. The younger youth described the weapon as a pink camouflage knife.
Both boys told police that Burley ran from the house after that, according to the court papers.
State police have charged Burley, 43, of Edinburg, with criminal homicide. He was taken into custody by U.S. marshals Tuesday morning in Youngstown after an overnight manhunt. In addition to the homicide charge, state police have charged him with two counts each of aggravated assault, kidnapping to inflict terror and unlawful restraint, three counts of terroristic threats, four counts of recklessly endangering another person and one count of simple assault.
Burley is being held in the Mahoning County jail pending extradition to Pennsylvania. He is to be arraigned on all of the charges later this week.
Less than half an hour before the stabbing, police said Burley had been in an argument with the boy’s 36-year-old mother — believed to have been his girlfriend — about 10:40 p.m. in the parking lot of New Castle Fire Station. Burley struck the woman several times, then he took her car, a black Buick Encore, with her two sons inside and drove them to the house at 60 High St. in Union Township.
Lawrence County 911 received a call, placed by one of the children in the house, to report the stabbing about 10 to 12 minutes after Burley left the fire department parking lot, Lawrence County Deputy Coroner Rich “R.J.” Johnson said.
When police and emergency medical services arrived at the High Street home, the boy was found dead on the kitchen floor, Johnson said.
The younger brother told police that he ran out the front door of the house toward the K Pulaski Club and flagged down police, telling them that “Bud,” a nickname for Burley, had stabbed his brother.
Johnson said Mason apparently suffered multiple stab wounds. An autopsy was performed Tuesday at Heritage Valley Health System in Beaver County.
The New Castle Fire Department reportedly has surveillance video of the alleged domestic assault in the parking lot. The mother was taken to UPMC Jameson hospital in New Castle for treatment for her injuries.
New Castle police took the initial call for the domestic and responded to it, New Castle police Chief Bobby Salem said, and they also assisted at the scene in Union Township, but state police are investigating Mason’s death.
Burley was on parole from a 1999 robbery shooting death when Monday night’s incident occurred, according to state police. He had pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and having a gun without a license, and he served the minimum in a state correctional institution for a 20- to 40-year prison term. He had been released from prison earlier this year.
Mason was a student at the Lockley Early Learning Center until his family moved to Shenango Township, Lawrence County. He was enrolled in the Shenango Area School District.