‘Be vigilant’: DA urges public to take caution as investigators continue search for Aaron Pennington

GARDNER, Mass. — A Gardner man who is wanted by police for questioning following the shooting death of his wife remains at large as investigators continue to search a vast, 400-acre tract of woods where his vehicle was found Monday in Gardner, authorities said Tuesday.

Search operations to capture Aaron Pennington will resume on Wednesday morning, after crews concluded an exhaustive search on Tuesday night, state police said around 6 p.m. The target area for the search is approximately 175 acres.

The 33-year-old Pennington is wanted by authorities for questioning in the death of his wife, 30-year-old Breanne Pennington, which state police are calling a homicide.

“He has not been found at this point,” Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early told reporters around 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.

Aaron Pennington should be considered armed and dangerous, and the public should not approach him or try to search for him but rather call 911 immediately, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

“Be vigilant. Pay attention to your surroundings,” Early said in his message to the public during a press conference from the wooded area in Gardner.

Authorities described Aaron Pennington as a white male with blonde hair, and blue eyes, standing 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and weighing approximately 175 pounds. Anyone who sees him is urged not to approach him and to call 911 immediately, state police said.

Early said a bow hunter on Monday found a white BMW sedan believed to belong to Aaron Pennington in a wooded area of the Collier Campground in Gardner, which is about three miles from the couple’s home. The hunter immediately called police. Residents in the Kelton Street neighborhood on Monday were asked to shelter-in-place as investigators combed the area.

That search continued throughout Tuesday morning in a wooded area of the Collier Campground, an expansive land trust which is often used by local churches and Boy Scout groups, authorities said.

“This is a big area. It’s about 400 acres out here and it’s incredible how (search crews) do the work,” Early said.

The search includes members of the State Police Special Response Team, the State Police Tactical Operations Response team, the Violent Fugitives Apprehension Section, state police K9 units, and Gardner and Ashburnham police.

“We still treating this like he is alive and would be somewhere in the woods,” Early said.

Gardner Police Chief Eric McAvene asked local hunters and nearby residents with video cameras to review trail cameras and to contact police immediately if they see Pennington or anything unusual.

“It’s very heavily wooded, sparse... the grid search is large at this point in time,” McAvene said. “We’re operating under the assumption that he is still alive and on the run.”

Breanne Pennington was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound to the face in an upstairs bedroom in their Cherry Street home shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, according to an application for criminal complaint filed by police in Gardner District Court.

The couple’s four young children, who are ages 2, 5, 7, and 9 and who went to a neighbor’s house asking for help before their mother was found dead Sunday, are now in state custody, authorities said.

In their complaint, filed Sunday in Gardner District Court, police are seeking to arrest Aaron Pennington for unlawfully possessing a firearm or ammunition.

The couple was having marital problems before Breanne Pennington was found fatally shot, police wrote in the criminal complaint.

“Breanne Pennington had plans of moving to Texas with the kids to be away from Aaron Pennington. Aaron Pennington suffered from mental health issues and had threatened suicide,” police wrote.

Earlier Sunday, police issued a public alert for his white BMW 320 sedan with a Massachusetts Veterans plate number, later saying Pennington may have attached one of two other registrations with Texas or California plates to the vehicle.

The district attorney on Tuesday urged the public to call police with any information that could help investigators.

“It’s incredible how often that these tips help us,” Early said. “We’re asking the public for all of their help.”

But, he urged people to stay away from Pennington if they see him.

Investigators are “treating this like they have a man who’s armed in the woods,” he said.

“Please, no one in the public try to go and find this guy,” Early said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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