WASHINGTON COUNTY, Pa. -
An investigation is ongoing after a man was able to remove his monitoring bracelet without police knowing, kidnapped his wife whom he abused in the past, and allegedly killed her in a remote area of Washington County.
Tierne Ewing, 48, was found dead Tuesday night in a West Finley Township barn with a gunshot wound to the head. Her estranged husband and accused abductor, 47-year-old Kevin Ewing, was found alive with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was pronounced brain-dead at UPMC Presbyterian hospital on Wednesday afternoon, officials said. The medical examiner said an autopsy is pending, as Kevin Ewing remained on a ventilator until a decision about organ donation was made.
Kevin Ewing was previously accused of holding Tierne Ewing hostage for 12 days and torturing her in July, when police said he repeatedly beat and burned her. She had a protection-from-abuse order against him, and online court records show an arrest warrant was issued for Kevin Ewing on kidnapping, terroristic threats, weapons charges and other crimes.
"She was scared to death of him. He threatened her all the time," said Tierne Ewing's father, Richard Kopko. "He beat her several times."
Police said from June 26 to July 8, Kevin Ewing held Tierne hostage, brutally beating her with a hammer and firearm; keeping a cord around her neck; duct-taping her mouth and hands; and repeatedly telling her he was going to kill her and kill himself.
North Strabane police arrested him on July 8 and Magistrate Mark Wilson set bail at $100,000. On July 11, Kevin Ewing posted bail. On July 15. Assistant District Attorney Kristin Clingerman filed an emergency motion asking to keep Kevin Ewing in jail by increasing his bail. But on July 19, Judge Gary Gilman denied the request and Kevin Ewing was released on $100,000 bail.
WPXI legal analyst Phil DiLucente looked at the case, and said he thinks the bail combined with the ankle monitoring system was set high enough.
"The judge is not permitted to punish the defendant through high bail for the purpose of giving high bond and keeping him in jail," DiLucente said.
Meanwhile, Clingerman said she fought heard to keep Tierne safe and that Tuesday night's outcome is exactly what she feared would ultimately happen.
“She was terrified, shaking, scared. She kept saying, ‘I know he’s going to kill me,'” Clingerman said.
Kevin Ewing had been wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, but police said he cut it off before he abducted Tierne Ewing. No one was notified when the ankle bracelet was cut, and Clingerman said once the monitoring is in place, it’s in the hands of Adult Probation Services.
Channel 11 attempted to contact officials at Washington County Adult Probation and the presiding judge, but a court administrator said he was the only person allowed to answer questions.
The administrator said the GPS uses a cellphone signal and the bracelet is a mix of plastic, rubber and metal banding that is not typically easy to remove. He said officials are not aware of any issues with the bracelet technology or its alert system. He said an alert is sent if the bracelet is tampered with or opened, but that alert is not instantaneous.
When asked specifically if Kevin Ewing’s bracelet worked, he said he could not comment on an open investigation.
"They put a bracelet on him and she's six miles away. Oh, give me a break. …Something’s wrong with the judging system in this country," Kopko said.
On Tuesday -- about two months after Kevin Ewing tortured his wife and held her hostage -- he allegedly abducted her from a home on Blockhouse Run Road in West Finley Township at about 12:30 a.m. Authorities said the home belongs to Kevin Ewing's parents and that Tierne Ewing had been staying with them.
Police said the pair were traveling in a gray Hyundai Veloster that was found earlier in the day by investigators. There was no sign of either Ewing at the time.
Around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, police converged on Walnut Valley Road in West Finley Township, where they believed Kevin Ewing was armed and hiding in a barn. As police arrived, they heard gunshots. When a SWAT team secured the area, investigators found the Ewings inside the barn.
Brenda McCullough, whose own daughter grew up with Tierne, said her heart breaks for Tierne’s parents, children and her two young grandchildren.
“I think the powers that be really need to start listening to people who have fears,” McCullough said.
At the scene on Wednesday, there were heavy tire tracks in the grass and latex gloves tossed in the gravel on Walnut Valley Road. Anthony Hinch, who lives in the area of the barn, said state police and a SWAT team were parked in his driveway an on the road for hours on Tuesday. Hinch said the area is so remote that a person cannot get to the barn without an all-terrain vehicle.
"He (Kevin Ewing) was from the area evidently so he brought her a mile and a half through the woods without being seen,” Hinch said.
Capt. David Heckman of the Pennsylvania State Police said police found a .22-caliber firearm, a sleeping bag and other camping items on the second floor of the barn, indicating Kevin Ewing planned to be there for a long time.