NEW MILFORD - Tapes of 911 calls in two states provide details into the harrowing moments last Thursday morning after a North Carolina man shot and killed two people in a pickup truck before turning the gun on himself.

Frantic witnesses called 911 at around 8:40 a.m. Thursday to report that two people had been shot in a black pickup near the intersection of Routes 7 and 55 in New Milford.

The victims were later identified as Katie Pladl, 20, and her adoptive father, Anthony Fusco, 56, a retired New York state corrections officer.

The shooter, identified as Steven Walter Pladl, had fathered a son last fall with Katie Pladl, his biological daughter. She had recently ended their relationship and returned from North Carolina to her adoptive parents’ home in Dover, N.Y.

As Pladl sped away from the shooting scene on Route 7, a witness called 911.

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Funeral arrangements

Calling hours for Anthony Fusco, Katie Pladl and the infant, Bennett Pladl, will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Hufcut Funeral Home in Dover Plains. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the St. Charles Borromeo Church in Dover Plains.

“Someone just went by and shot this guy in a truck,” said the caller, who identified himself as a New York firefighter. “The car pulled up, went around him, shot him. Put a whole clipful into his head.”

After taking a closer look, the witness told the dispatcher that there were, in fact, two bodies in the pickup.

Minutes later, Pladl’s mother called 911 in North Carolina, and was transferred to police in the town of Knightdale, just outside of Raleigh, where Steven Pladl had a home. She told a dispatcher that her son had just called, saying he had killed his son, his daughter and Fusco, and was about to kill himself.

“He’s dead by now,” she told the dispatcher in a tape police released on Friday. “He said he was taking his own life when he got off the phone.”

Pladl’s mother, whose name was not given, also told the dispatcher that Katie Pladl had broken up with her father and returned to Dover. She also said Pladl had picked up the infant from her house at about 8 p.m. Wednesday, intending to take him to New York.

“I pleaded with him not to go,” the mother said. “And then he called me this morning to say they were all gone. He said he was going to kill himself, because he couldn’t live without her.”

Knightdale police said Friday that the Pladls’ son, 7-month-old Bennett, had been found dead in a bathroom closet in Steven Pladl’s home. There were no obvious signs of trauma, police said, and the medical examiner has yet to determine the cause of death.

Even as his mother was speaking to police, Pladl was being sought by officers on both sides of the New York state line.

His minivan — a light blue Honda Odyssey with North Carolina plates — was spotted by a Dutchess County probation officer, parked with the engine running near the Ten Mile River in Dover. New Milford police said Friday he was dead when officers approached.

Authorities said Pladl killed himself with the same semi-automatic rifle that he used to kill his daughter and Fusco. There were no other weapons in the vehicle.

According to the medical examiner’s office, both Fusco and Katie Pladl were killed by multiple gunshot wounds to the head, neck and torso.

Katie Pladl, who had been adopted as an infant in 1998, grew up in New York State and graduated from Dover High School. The superintendent of the district, Michael Tierney, spoke highly of her.

“I’d see her walking around in the halls once in awhile,” he said. “She was well-spoken and a nice kid. She came from a nice family.”

The Fuscos adopted Katie the same year Anthony Fusco retired from the New York Department of Corrections. Tierney said the couple were supportive parents and were active in the community.

According to his obituary, Fusco had also worked as a corrections officer at the Federal Correctional Institute in Danbury. He retired last year but continued to work part-time as a security guard at the Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover.

Fusco also served as a member of Dover’s Zoning Board of Appeals and was also a member of the Music Boosters for the Dover Union Free School District. He was also a past member of the U.S. Coast Guard and an active member of the American Legion Post #1949 in Wingdale, N.Y.

Katie Pladl was an aspiring artist who graduated from Dover High School two years ago, according to her obituary. She was working as a freelance artist before her death.

Steven and Katie Pladl were arrested in January and charged with incest as an adult, a felony punishable in Virginia by up to 10 years in prison.

In her phone call to police last Thursday, Pladl’s mother said authorities had seized several guns when he was arrested earlier this year. Whether they left behind the semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting, or if Pladl obtained it after his arrest, was not clear.

“He got arrested a couple of months ago and they took all the weapons out, except that one he has with him, I guess,” the mother said. “I can’t believe this. It’s unbelievable. How could he kill her?”

Meanwhile, in New Milford, the horrified witness told the dispatcher that he had pulled his own truck alongside the pickup to shield the bodies from public view and help stem the flow of traffic.

“He’s deceased, boss,” the witness said. “The truck’s in the middle of the road.”

“He’s dead?” the dispatcher asked.

“Yes, sir, brains are on the road.”

dperrefort@newstimes.com