2 dead after murder-suicide at Philipsburg area supermarket

State police are on the scene of a shooting Thursday morning at the County Market grocery store on the outskirts of Philipsburg.
State police are on the scene of a shooting Thursday morning at the County Market grocery store on the outskirts of Philipsburg. CDT photo

Defying a no-contact order, a retired state police trooper marched into the supermarket where his estranged wife worked Thursday morning, found her and killed her with a shotgun before turning the weapon on himself.

State police at Clearfield said Traci Miscavish, 49, of Philipsburg, was killed by her husband, Mark R. Miscavish, 51, at the County Market grocery store on the outskirts of Philipsburg. The murder-suicide followed the wife’s filing for divorce last week and the husband’s arrest in January on charges he attacked her and threatened to kill her.

Police said Mark Miscavish walked into the store in Peebles Plaza about 10 a.m. and shot his wife in an upstairs room reserved for employees. Seconds later, police believe, he killed himself.

Authorities did not know how many times Mark Miscavish fired the gun, but a sister of the woman said Traci Miscavish was shot four times. Gina March said she learned of the details of the shooting from witnesses.

Traci Miscavish filed for a divorce in Centre County court Friday. She got a protection from abuse order against her husband Jan. 23, when he was arrested after a domestic dispute in the couple’s Rush Township home. According to court documents, the two had split, and the altercation happened when the wife returned to collect some of her belongings.

Traci Miscavish thought her husband was abusing prescription medications and drinking more, court records show, and he allegedly attacked her after she tried to take away one of his pill bottles.

March said Mark Miscavish hadn’t been “in his right mind,” adding, “I don’t believe he was at fault.”

“The system failed her for not protecting her,” a teary March said. “The system failed him for not getting him the help he needed.”

Mark Miscavish spent about a week in the Centre County Correctional Facility after his arrest in January, but he was released after his attorney successfully sought a bail reduction.

District Judge Thomas Jordan reduced Miscavish’s bail from $10,000 straight to unsecured, which means he could be released from jail without putting the money up front as collateral. Jordan could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, whose office was prosecuting Miscavish, agreed the system had failed Traci Miscavish. Parks Miller said her office opposed the bail reduction because a gun was involved and because of Traci Miscavish’s extreme fear of her estranged husband.

“This is beyond devastating,” Parks Miller said. “We tried to keep him incarcerated, and were prepared to try this case. Only after conviction can we force a defendant into counseling. The system failed her and her family and we are part of this system. Our apology is woefully inadequate and we are praying for this family.”

Miscavish joined the state police in June 1996 and retired in April 2011, said Maria Finn, a spokeswoman for state police.

One woman who knew Traci Miscavish said she had no idea about the PFA or problems at home.

“Traci just had smiling, gorgeous blue eyes, always had a great smile and always talked to people, so you couldn’t imagine there was stuff going on at home,” said Christina Price, who works at the liquor store in the same strip mall as the County Market.

“It’s like one of those where I wouldn’t have thought she had a PFA. But if she would have made that obvious, it would have helped a bit,” Price said, standing in the parking lot at the strip mall. “But would it have stopped this? It’s like, how do you get out alive? When you’ve got kids and grandkids and friends and family, how do you split it and get away?”

Bill Walker, a priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Philipsburg, went to the shooting scene after his parishioners notified him. Some of Traci Miscavish’s family attended St. Paul’s, he said.

“It’s heartbreaking — sad, anger, disappointment,” Walker said. “ It’s just not a way to start Easter.”

When asked if the Miscavish family was troubled, he replied, “Not the family I knew.”

“I can’t believe something like this happened in Philipsburg,” Walker said. “It’s so disappointing.”

Thursday’s shooting came five days after a murder-suicide Saturday in Huntingdon County.

Kenneth Ayers, 52, shot and killed his 2-year-old son, Michael Ayers, during a dispute with his estranged wife, whom he also shot, according to police. The incident happened in Barree Township, near Petersburg. Ayers then drove to Warriors Mark and turned the gun on himself.

Outside the Decatur Township store late Thursday afternoon, police continued to work the scene. Troopers said there was no indication Miscavish planned to escape from the store.

He was not carrying any other weapons and did not threaten anyone else in the store, police said.

“This man needed help,” March said.

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