Teen confesses to gunning down family — (Associated Press)

Original article no longer available

Associated Press

12-02-98

MUSKEGON (AP) – An 18-year-old has confessed to gunning down his family because his father had threatened to kick him out of the house, authorities said yesterday.

Seth Privacky was arraigned yesterday on five counts of open murder. A friend, Steven Wallace, also 18, faces the same charges. A judge set bail at $5 million each after Muskegon County Prosecutor Tony Tague said both had confessed to the Dalton Township killings and were “extremely dangerous.”

They could face life in prison.    Both men showed no emotion in court, but Privacky requested he someday be allowed to get out of prison. Courtroom spectators, many of them friends of the suspects and victims, wept.

Autopsy results were not immediately available, but authorities believe all the deaths occurred Sunday around 1:30 p.m. Wallace was apprehended early Monday morning near the Privacky family home, moments after police arrived at the scene. He began cooperating immediately with authorities, Tague said. Privacky was arrested Monday afternoon after police received a tip he was hiding in a nearby pole barn.

The victims were identified as Stephen Privacky, a fifth-grade teacher at Muskegon’s Reeths-Puffer Elementary School; his wife, Linda Privacky, a receptionist at a medical office in Muskegon; their older son, Jedediah Privacky; Jedediah’s girlfriend, April Boss, and Stephen Privacky’s father, John Privacky.

After the arraignment, Tague told reporters that Seth Privacky made his confession about an hour before the arraignment. Tague said the teen-ager told authorities he shot all five, point-blank in the head, and then moved the bodies around with Wallace’s help to make it look like a robbery.

Tague dismissed speculation depression might have played a role. Records unsealed yesterday show the court in 1997 ordered Seth Privacky to attend counseling and take Wellbutrin, an anti-depressive drug, after he was arrested for shoplifting and embezzlement.

“I don’t believe with or without the medication, his psychological condition is serious enough to alter the charges,” Tague said. “There is no significant history of mental illness.”   He did not know if Seth Privacky had been taking the medication in the days leading up to the deaths.

Tague also said more investigation is needed before determining whether the charges against either man will be downgraded. Wallace’s lawyer told the judge his client was an accessory.   Muskegon County Dep. Sgt. Dennis Edwards said Seth Privacky, who has no criminal history of violence, told him the killings began just before 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Seth Privacky’s mother was showering and his father was picking up the grandfather for a late Thanksgiving celebration.

“He took his father’s 22-Ruger, loaded it and shot his brother in the back of his head while he watched TV,” Edwards said. “The father had gone to pick up the grandfather. When they came in the door, he shot them. He shot his grandfather twice … to make sure he was dead.

“He then waited until his mother got out of the shower and shot her. … April had come over and had apparently seen the bodies, so he shot her.”

Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened next, but Edwards said they believe Seth Privacky called Wallace and asked him for help cleaning up, saying, “It’s done” in reference to a conversation Saturday that he had about killing his father.

Edwards said the men had planned to take the bodies out of the home and bury them, but decided to stage a robbery scene when the bodies turned out to be too heavy to carry.

Police then believe Wallace drove to a pond 10 miles away, where he got rid of the gun and clip, which police have since recovered. He then drove to a Blockbuster Video store to return a rented movie, went home and then attended a church youth group, Edwards said.

Seth Privacky, meanwhile, dropped the spent shell casings in a gas station trash can before going to local grocery store to get duct tape for the robbery scene, Edwards said.   At some point the two met up again, probably later in the evening, Edwards said. They were in the middle of cleaning up the crime scene when Boss’ parents, who had come to the home looking for their daughter, drove up.   They saw someone standing over Stephen Privacky’s body on the driveway, and called police. Wallace was apprehended immediately, but Privacky spent nearly 13 hours hiding.

Police found the pair’s bloody clothing and a television stolen as part of the robbery in one of the Privacky’s cars.

Although Seth Privacky cried when he finished making his statement yesterday, Edwards said the teenager had earlier tried to blame his dead brother, describing the killings as a murder-suicide pact gone awry.

Classmates who gathered outside the courtroom said that although the evidence pointed to their friends’ guilt, they could not understand what went so wrong Thanksgiving weekend.

“I know parents die, grandparents and aunts and uncles, but never anyone your age,” said Tina Malotke, who identified herself as a friend of Boss.   Court records show Seth Privacky was a B-average student, whose parents as recently as 1997 described him as a good kid .

In an essay he wrote as part of a court sentence for shoplifting, Seth Privacky discussed his interest in science, his desire to get married and travel.   “I’d also like to have kids one day. Not too many, because I know how much trouble I get into and how much of a nuisance I can be sometimes,” he wrote.

In another court-ordered essay, he wrote that his goal was “to try to become a positive role model in our society. To try and convince my peers to obey the law.”

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A Nightmare In Muskegon

It was early Sunday afternoon at Seth Privacky’s house, just outside Muskegon, Mich., nearly time for the family’s delayed Thanksgiving. His mother is taking a shower. His brother’s watching TV. His father should arrive with granddad anytime.

His brother’s girlfriend will be there soon. Upstairs, Seth, 18, is loading his father’s 22-caliber Ruger.

Instead of a warm family gathering, five people are gunned down in bloody succession. Autopsy results were completed Wednesday for the victims, reports Correspondent Christine Behrens of CBS affiliate WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, Mich. The autopsies show that Seth’s grandfather was shot twice in the back of the head. The three other family members and a friend had been shot once.

According to police, Seth confessed to the murders. He allegedly said that his family had been ganging up on him. Privacky killed his brother Jed’s girlfriend, April Boss, when she showed up unexpectedly and saw the bodies, police said.

Boss’ family says the 19-year-old was planning to marry Jed Privacky. They said Boss got along well with everyone in the Privacky family, including Seth. “I just want to know why. I want him to tell me why. I can’t believe April did anything to him,” said Boss’ stepfather, Tom Cooper.

Seth has confessed, authorities say, to systematically shooting each victim point-blank in the head, then calling his best friend Steven Wallace, also 18, to help him move bodies around the split-level house, even lugging one out to the driveway, to make it look like a robbery.

Seth got rid of the shells; Steve owns up to tossing the gun into a pond before dropping off a video and attending a meeting of a church youth group, police say.

Seth says he was angry because his father had threatened to kick him out of the house.

Four days later, both suspects stand charged on five counts of open murder and face life in prison if convicted. The prosecutor describes them as “extremely dangerous.”

“These were good families,” says Randy Allen, whose son Shane attended high school with Seth and Steve in the western Michigan city of Muskegon.  “Their families were no different from any other. They offered a father and mother who were very professional, and the kids were good.”   “As far as I knew, they were a Beaver Cleaver family,” adds Shane, 17.

But more than a year ago, after two arrests for shoplifting beer and a compact disc, Seth was prescribed anti-depressant medication, sentenced to 10 days in the county youth home, and required to get counseling.
Authorities don’t know if Seth was still taking the medication, Wellbutrin, but say no consideration was given to amending the charges because of his mental history.

Stephen Privacky, 50, taught fifth grade. His superintendent, Gloria Lewis, described him as a dedicated teacher who had told her “Seth was a fine young man … and he was very proud of him.”   Linda Privacky, 49, was a receptionist at a medical office. Her father-in-law, John Privacky, was 78 and lived on his own nearby.

Jed and April, both 19, were studying at Muskegon Community College to be teachers.    Jed apparently was the first to die.

Seth “took his father’s 22-Ruger, loaded it and shot his brother in the back of his head while he watched TV,” says Muskegon County Detective Sgt. Dennis Edwards.    When his father and grandfather came home, Edwards says, the teen-ager turned the gun on them.

“He shot his grandfather twice … to make sure he was dead,” Edwards says.    “He then waited until his mother got out of the shower and shot her.”

April arrived a few minutes later and apparently saw the bodies of the older men at the entrance, “so he shot her,” Edwards says.  Next, investigators say, Seth called Steve and asked for help cleaning up, telling him, “It’s done,” in reference to a vow made Saturday to kill his father.    “The house was scattered with bodies, there was blood everywhere,” says prosecutor Tony Tague. “This is the most serious and vicious attack on a household I have ever witnessed.”
Store security photos show Seth twice trying to by .22-caliber bullets the night before the shootings, Tague said Wednesday. He was refused because he was underage. Authorities don’t know where a box of ammunition found in the house came from.

After the shootings, Edwards says, Seth spent hours mopping up blood before driving to a gas station and dropping the spent shell casings into a trash can. A security camera at a nearby grocery shows him buying duct tape at 9:40 p.m.; police believe he planned to use the tape to set up the phony robbery scene.    Steve, meanwhile, drove 10 miles to a pond and threw the gun and clip into op   osite ends, police say. Then he returned a movie to a Blockbuster Video store, went home, and attended an evening church meeting.    Both returned to the house for more cleanup. Late that night, April’s mother and stepfather, Julie and Tom Cooper, came looking for her and saw someone standing over Stephen Privacky’s body in the driveway. The figure ran.

The Coopers rushed inside, grabbed a portable phone, and took it outside to call 911.  Shortly after police arrived, Steve ran out of nearby woods and was arrested.   Seth eluded searchers for almost 13 hours. Acting on a tip, police found him rain-soaked and shivering in a barn where he occasionally practiced bass guitar for Dimensia, the band he and Steve had formed.

In court Tuesday, where two dozen high school students and other friends of suspects and victims jammed a corridor after courtroom seating ran out, neither suspect showed emotion.    But at one point Seth leaned forward and whispered to the judge. He was asking, the prosecutor said, that he someday be allowed out of prison.

“One of his major concerns, as opposed to the welfare of his family, is he’s never going to get out of jail,” Tague says. According to court records, Seth was a B student and was described by his parents as a good kid as recently as 1997. His mother told the court in 1996 that he always obeyed her and followed curfews, although she checked a box on a court questionnaire indicating that Seth, then 16, “sometimes” drank.

In an essay as part of his shoplifting punishment, Seth described an interest in science and his desire to marry and travel: “I would also like to have kids one day. Not to (sic) many, because I know how much trouble I get into and how much of a nuisance I can be sometimes.”

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