York-area murder victim, killer seemed like 'a normal couple going through struggles'
A woman who had left her husband and moved out of their Conewago Township home was murdered by him when she returned to retrieve belongings, police said.
Marsha Stewart, 40, suffered multiple gunshot wounds, according to York County Coroner Pam Gay, who has ruled Stewart's death a homicide.
After gunning her down, estranged husband Courtney "Corey" Stewart, 50, committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, according to the coroner.
The Stewarts leave behind two daughters, ages 8 and 12, who were home when their father killed their mother, according to Deputy Chief David Lash of Northern York County Regional Police.
Neither girl saw the shootings, and neither was hurt, he said.
"The 8-year-old daughter notified a neighbor that her parents were fighting," Lash said.
Both girls are now being cared for by relatives, he said.
Marsha Stewart had recently left her husband and moved out of their home in the 1100 block of Stone Gate Drive, according to the deputy chief.
Returned to house: But she returned on Tuesday, July 30, and Wednesday, July 31, to pick up some of her belongings, he said.
It does not appear there was a scuffle prior to the shooting, Lash confirmed, adding that investigators are still trying to determine exactly when the victim moved out.
He said Courtney Stewart did not leave a suicide note.
Lash said Northern York County Regional Police arrested Courtney Stewart in 2016 after he punched his wife in the face.
District court records state he was arrested March 14, 2016, and pleaded guilty to a summary offense of harassment on April 8, 2016. The original charge was simple assault, police said.
Called to scene: Northern Regional officers were summoned to the home about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, police said.
No one answered the door when officers arrived, and when they went inside they found the Stewarts dead in an upstairs bedroom, according to a police news release.
Officers recovered a 9 mm handgun at the scene, police said.
Anyone with information about the murder-suicide is asked to call Northern Regional's tip line at 717-467-8355 or email information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
No autopsies will be performed, the coroner's office said.
Victim soft-spoken, sweet: Local attorney Heather Reiner knew the Stewarts. She represented Courtney Stewart on his domestic violence assault charge in 2016 and also provided legal guidance to Marsha Stewart on an unrelated matter, Reiner said.
"She was very sweet ... very soft-spoken," Reiner said. "It seemed ... they were reconciling and trying to stay together as parents."
Reiner said it was obvious the Stewarts "were going through something."
Marsha Stewart supported her husband's misdemeanor simple assault charge being reduced to a summary offense, the attorney said, and Courtney Stewart was remorseful for the incident that led to the 2016 charge being filed.
"He told me, 'I love my wife. I love my children. I want to work this out,'" Reiner recalled.
Courtney Stewart was proud of his daughters and wasn't afraid to tell people about how his girls were doing in school or extracurricular activities, according to the attorney.
"He seemed like a devoted father," Reiner said. "They seemed like your normal family. Just a normal couple going through struggles."
The Stewarts moved to York County a number of years ago from out of state, she said.
York County prothonotary records indicate Marsha Stewart filed for divorce on June 22, 2018, according to court records. The case remains open, and it's unclear whether they reconciled after that and then split up again.
Getting help: Victims of domestic violence can find resources through Access-York, which provides a range of services, including emergency shelter. Access-York has an online questionnaire to help people assess their relationship with a domestic or intimate partner.
Those in immediate danger should call 911 immediately, according to Access-York.
Every municipal police department in York County uses a domestic-violence lethality assessment to help victims determine whether they are in immediate danger, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the York County District Attorney's Office.
There are 11 questions in the assessment, including whether the abusive partner has threatened to kill the victim; is unemployed; believes a child isn't biologically his/hers; and whether the person regularly exhibits jealousy.
Experts say domestic violence victims are in the greatest danger when they leave or are preparing to leave a relationship.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.