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‘Petrifying’: Search continues for Gardner man wanted in wife’s death after car found in woods

GARDNER, Mass. — The search for a Gardner man wanted in connection with the death of his wife is continuing Tuesday after police on Monday evening found his car abandoned in the woods at a campground.

The manhunt for Aaron Pennington, 33, prompted a shelter-in-place order in Gardner on Monday night. That order came moments after the Worcester District Attorney’s Office, Massachusetts State Police, and Gardner policed discovered Pennington’s 2013 BMW 320 sedan in the woods of the Collier Campground.

After a perimeter was established around the car, the state police Special Tactical Operations Team determined that the car was unoccupied, officials said in an update on Tuesday morning.

After clearing the car, officials said that STOP troopers, K9 teams, and the MSP Air Wing conducted a search of the surrounding wooded area but didn’t locate Pennington.

Video from the scene of the search captured the moment a T.J. & Sons truck drove off with Pennington’s BMW in tow.

The shelter-in-place order was lifted around 10 p.m. Monday. A search of the same area around the campground continued Tuesday morning.

“The District Attorney’s office and police will update on the results of today’s operation when appropriate to do so,” officials said in a statement.

Melissa Zirkle, who lives near Collier Campground on Kelton Street, says the manhunt has the neighborhood on edge.

“It’s kind of petrifying, to be honest with you. Like I said It’s fairly quiet around here and we are friendly. You hardly ever see cops on this road,” Zirkle explained.

Zirkle told Boston 25 that it’s usually a very quiet street.

“When I left about 5 o’clock I saw a couple of cruisers and parked cars and I called my husband and said there’s a bunch of parked cars on the road and we thought because it was hunting season that maybe somebody got hurt in the woods,” she said.

Pennington is the focus of a nationwide manhunt after police found his wife’s body inside their Cherry Street home on Sunday. He was last seen driving away from 42 Cherry Street on Sunday morning.

The woman was identified as 30-year-old Breanne Pennington.

The Worcester District Attorney’s Office says their four children, who are now in DCF custody, were inside and unharmed when Breanne’s death occurred.

Breanne’s sister, Brooke Pertile, urged Pennington to turn himself in and consider his children.

“He better turn himself in. He needs to stand up for what he did and turn himself in. And not be a coward. He needs to turn himself in. He needs to do it for the kids,” Pertile said.

Pennington is described as 6 feet, 2 inches tall, about 175 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information on Pennington’s whereabouts is urged to contact Massachusetts State Police at 508-829-8236 or the Gardner Police Department at 978-632-5600.

An investigation remains ongoing.

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

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