Man, 26, Charged With Dismembering Younger Brother

A man was arrested on charges of killing and dismembering his younger brother and then scattering parts of his body in several locations, police said.

Stephen J. Austin, 26, was arrested during a traffic stop in Berks County early Friday, and authorities found the head and severed hands of his 22-year-old brother, Jonathan N. Austin, inside the red Jeep Cherokee, according to an arrest affidavit.

Police allege that the two brothers argued Thursday, and Stephen Austin struck his brother with a crowbar and then strangled him inside the garage of their mother's home in Upper Mount Bethel Township in Northampton County.

After the murder, police said, the defendant put his brother's body into the vehicle, drove to another point on the property about 200 yards away from the garage, and dismembered the body with a bow saw and hatchet.

Both tools and parts of the body were recovered at several places in Berks County, at French Creek State Park and in Maxatawny Township. Other evidence was also found at the home and a shovel, axe and blood-soaked items were found in the vehicle, authorities said.

Police said they received a report Thursday night that there was a body in the defendant's car, and a statewide bulletin was issued. The car was stopped near French Creek State Park in Berks County.

Stephen Austin, who lives with his wife and two children in Birdsboro, was charged with criminal homicide, abusing a corpse, and tampering with or fabricating evidence. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said he believed it was clearly a case of first-degree murder.

The defendant was arraigned Friday evening before Senior District Judge Sherwood Grigg in Bangor and sent to Northampton County Prison. A preliminary hearing was tentatively scheduled for June 2.

Public Defender Anthony Martino, who represented Austin at the hearing, declined comment on the case.