UNION TWP., Pa. (WKBN) – The father of 8-year-old Mark Edward Mason, Jr., who was stabbed to death Monday, described him as a brave boy and hero. His father said his sons did exactly as they were taught to do if attacked.
“My son’s a victim, yes, but my son’s a hero and I want my son remembered a hero, not a victim,” Mark Mason, Sr. said.
Police charged 43-year-old Keith Burley with Mark Jr.’s homicide.
“I want everyone to know that my son fought,” Mark Sr. said. “My son fought him, he just wasn’t strong enough. How can an 8-year-old fight a 43-year-old man with a knife?”
In March, Burley was released from prison, where he served a 20-year sentence after pleading guilty to third-degree murder.
Police said Monday night there was a domestic dispute over cell phones between Burley and the boys’ mother.
Police said Burley took a car with the two boys inside and ended up at a house in Union Township, where things took a violent turn.
Mark Sr. said his 8- and 7-year-old sons fought back against Burley.
“My kids did everything I taught them to do. I told them if anything like that happened, ‘Marky, you protect your mom and you protect your brother’ and ‘Matthew, you run and get help, and don’t you stop running until you find somebody.'”
According to children who saw it happen, Burley said, “Die, die” while stabbing Mark Jr. with a pink camouflage knife.
Mark Sr.’s other son, Matthew, got away. Pennsylvania State Police troopers said Burley chased Matthew but couldn’t catch him.
Mark Sr. said Matthew fought, too, and threw a chair at Burley before running for help.
Matthew ran until he found an adult and told them his brother was hurt. Mark Jr. was dead a short time later.
Mark Sr. said his son was unusually smart for his age and would whine about everything. It’s one of the things he misses most.
“He loved playing outside and I never thought I’d miss his whining but yesterday, I missed his whining so bad.”
Mark Jr. leaves behind six other siblings, all under the age of 9.
A vigil to honor his life is happening Monday at 7 p.m. at Elhans Restaurant on E. Washington Street in New Castle. The little boy’s uncle owns the restaurant. Organizers said there will be a candlelight vigil and balloon release, but they ask you bring your own candles and balloons.