LEOLA, Pa. – A young man has confessed to the gruesome bludgeoning and strangling murders of his grandmother and five other relatives in a tiny town in Pennsylvania's Amish country, police said Thursday.
Jesse Dee Wise, 21, was arrested and charged in the killings of his grandmother Emily Wise, 64; two women believed to be his aunts, Wanda Wise, 45; and Agnes Arlene Wise, 43; two of Emily Wise's grandchildren, Skyler Wise, 19; and Chance Wise, 5; and another relative, Jessie James Wise, 17.
Police said three of the victims were hit in the head with a blunt metal object and three others were strangled, though they wouldn't comment on a motive. The bodies were placed in the basement of the family home.
The six victims, some wrapped in sheet and blankets, were found Wednesday, along with scattered bits of hair, blood, bone fragments and a hammer, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in the case.
The suspect, whose grandparents own the house where the bodies were discovered, has been charged with six counts of murder, said East Lampeter Township Police Chief John Bowman.
Jesse Wise, shackled around his wrists and ankles, was arraigned Thursday afternoon on six counts of criminal homicide before District Judge B. Denise Commins.
Commins read the charges and Wise seemed to read along as she listed the victims.
"When will I get a lawyer?" he asked.
Commins ordered Wise held without bail. She set a preliminary hearing for April 20.
Police said they were still trying to sort out the suspect's relationship to each of the victims.
The massacre happened last weekend, according to Lancaster County District Attorney Don Totaro. Bowman said the cause of death was multiple traumatic injuries and the manner of death was homicide. Lancaster County Coroner G. Gary Kirchner conducted the autopsies Thursday morning.
In a guitar case at the home, police found two 17-inch pieces of metal that appeared to have blood on them. The objects were wrapped at one end with cloth and "had the appearance of a homemade weapon/club, capable of causing death if used as a weapon," according to the affidavit.
All six victims were found in the basement of the three-story white house with green roof and shutters on Main Street in Leola, a village in Lancaster County. Authorities said Wise was taken into custody on Wednesday and was assisting in the investigation.
Authorities said Wise's parents were both dead and he lived with his grandparents, but provided no other information about him.
The youngest of the victims, Chance Wise, was "a typically energetic kindergartener," said Gerald G. Huesken, superintendent of Conestoga Valley School District. Schools were closed Thursday, the first day of spring break, but counselors would be brought to the elementary school when classes resume Tuesday to talk with students, he said.
The home's owner, Jessie L. Wise, 60, was in New York at the time of the discovery and had told a friend he was worried about his family because he hadn't heard from them since Friday. The family was planning to visit Jessie L. Wise in New York, according to the affidavit.
That friend, 24-year-old John Sean Adams, called 911 at 3 p.m. Wednesday and searched the house with police that same day.
Adams met East Lampeter Township Police Officer Samuel Sanger at the home, according to the affidavit, which stated that Adams went into the basement, stopped halfway down the steps, turned back and yelled, "They're all dead! All six of them are dead!"
Sanger proceeded to the basement and discovered several bodies wrapped in sheets and blankets and piled on the floor, one of them with obvious head wounds. One body was at the bottom of the steps wrapped in a comforter secured with a phone cord, the affidavit stated.
Police also found dark marks that looked like blood on the walls and ceiling of two third-floor bedrooms. The beds had been stripped of sheets and blankets.
According to the search warrant, police were searching the property for fingerprints, weapons, a hammer and phone cord, as well as anything wrapped around the victim's necks. They were also seeking personal effects and financial information related to the victims.
Police received the first call about a concern at the house around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The person called back a few minutes later to cancel the request for help, then called again at 2:05 p.m., according to the affidavit, which doesn't identify the caller.
A neighbor, Janet Detwiler, 44, said she noticed a white car coming and going in the past week and thought it belonged to someone who lived at the Wise house.
Leola, a small village of about 750 residents in Lancaster County's rural Amish country, is 45 miles southeast of Harrisburg.
FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Todd Connor and the Associated Press contributed to this report.