Jeffrey Mancuso grew up in the New Jersey suburbs, earned a college degree, and started his own consulting business. He became a father and appeared to cherish his daughter, Kayden. But he also had problems with alcohol and rage that over time not only left him estranged from his family, but consumed him.
“His hatred for us was greater than his love for his daughter,” said Mancuso’s sister, Allyson.
The child, she said, became the “ultimate sacrifice.”
On Monday, Mancuso, 41, and his daughter were found dead in his Manayunk home after he beat her to death with a 35-pound dumbbell in a murder-suicide that shocked the region.
Now, as 7-year-old Kayden Mancuso is laid to rest Saturday, her relatives are left to struggle with the wrenching memories of a troubled man.
“My brother is a monster, and what he did was unthinkable,” Allyson Mancuso, 42, of Marlton, said in a two-hour telephone interview. She said he had struggled with alcohol and prescription drugs, had gotten into fights since high school, and later cut off ties with her, their older brother and their mother.
Yet she also described a man who cared for his daughter — and a little girl who loved her father.
“She just thought the world of him,” Allyson said of Kayden. “She just loved him. And he loved her, too.”
Still, she feared that her brother could harm his daughter. “I’ve seen him at his most aggressive, violent” behavior, she said. “I saw it. He would scream at you, and he would spit at you. He just was not emotionally stable.”
She said she had wanted to testify against her brother, to tell Bucks County Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger, who was overseeing a custody battle between Mancuso and Kayden’s mother, Kathryn Sherlock of Langhorne, about her fears and that he regularly threatened to kill her and Sherlock.
But she said she didn’t receive the subpoena in the mail for the May 1 hearing until May 2.
Trauger, in a May 21 order, continued to give Sherlock primary custody of her daughter, but restricted Mancuso’s visitation rights to 10 a.m. Saturday until 6 p.m. Sunday every other weekend.
Although Sherlock had argued for Mancuso to have supervised visits, family members said, the judge allowed him unsupervised visits with Kayden.
“Those courts should have saved her, but they didn’t,” Allyson said.
Trauger has not responded to the family’s criticisms. Stephen Heckman, the Bucks County court administrator, said Trauger can’t comment on individual cases.
Earlier this week, a family friend started a Change.org petition seeking Trauger’s removal from the bench, contending that “he allowed a historically violent man to have unmonitored visits even after the child expressed fear.” As of Friday afternoon, the petition had more than 17,500 signatures.
Allyson said her brother never hit his daughter. “That’s how the court rationalized their decision. He never showed aggression toward her,” she said.
Growing up in Medford, her younger brother was “loving,” she said. Their parents divorced when she was about 3, but the siblings maintained a close relationship with their father.
Later, the family, raised by their mother, moved, and Mancuso attended Haddon Heights High School in Camden County. Mancuso drank heavily and fought often, his sister said. He punched a teacher and was expelled, she said.
His drinking and fighting continued when he attended Towson University in Maryland, from which he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business, she said.
“He always had to have things his way,” Allyson said. “If he didn’t see it his way, he would argue with you.”
Efforts to interview other relatives of Mancuso were not successful. When a reporter went to his mother’s home, his brother shut the door without a word. On Friday, Mancuso’s father hung up the phone when asked about Jeffrey.
After college, Mancuso worked for a headhunting firm in Cherry Hill, but was fired several months later after a dispute with his boss, his sister said. He then started his own headhunting company, A.E.C. Personnel Consultants, and found jobs for people in architecture, engineering, and construction.
In summer 2009, he met Kathryn Giglio in Avalon, N.J. She moved in with him in Manayunk shortly before Kayden was born in October 2010. They never married.
In an interview, the girl’s mother said she didn’t consider Mancuso a boyfriend, but tried to parent with him. They slept in separate bedrooms. He began abusing her. She recalled a time when he smashed her face with a plastic bottle. “I was terrified by him,” she said.
After Mancuso bit off part of a 52-year-old man’s ear in a South Philadelphia bar on New Year’s Day 2012, things spiraled downward, she said, and she left him.
In recent years, Mancuso withdrew from people. About a year ago, he cut off communication with his sister.
Kayden’s mother started a relationship five years ago with Brian Sherlock, whom she married in 2016. Mancuso continued to harass her, she said.
On Aug. 2, four days before she was found dead, Kayden went to Ocean City, N.J., with her father’s sister and mother.
While hanging out on the beach the next day, they received a text from Kayden’s mother saying that if they wanted, they could bring Kayden to Mancuso’s home that Saturday for his court-allowed time with her.
But Kayden said, “No, Daddy will be mad,” Allyson recalled, crying.
She believes that Kayden was fearful her father might have gotten angry if his mother or sister dropped her off, realizing that Kayden had spent time with them.
“He would call us ‘traitors’ because we were seeing her behind his back,” Allyson said.
So instead they drove Kayden back to her Langhorne home Friday. The next morning, Aug. 4, Kayden’s stepfather dropped her off at her father’s Manayunk home.
On Monday morning, her stepfather and grandfather found her dead inside the house.
A spokesperson for the city Medical Examiner’s Office said that Kayden died of “blunt-impact injuries of the head,” and that Mancuso hanged himself.
Family members said authorities told them that Mancuso likely killed Kayden on Aug. 4 by striking her head at least three times with a 35-pound dumbbell.
Mancuso left a note and the dumbbell on his daughter’s body, Allyson said. The note “expressed retribution” against his family and Kayden’s mother’s family, she said.
After killing Kayden, Mancuso put a bag over her head and killed himself in an upstairs room, police have said.
Mancuso’s body was to be cremated this week, Allyson said.
Kayden’s mother planned to attend a private Friday night viewing of her daughter.
“I’ve been a nurse for a long time,” said Kathryn Sherlock, who works in Trenton. “I have seen dead bodies. I don’t want to see hers.”
A public viewing for Kayden Mancuso will be from 9 to 11:15 a.m. Saturday at St. John the Evangelist Church, 752 Big Oak Rd., Lower Makefield. A Funeral Mass will be said at 11:30. Burial will follow at All Saints Cemetery, Newtown.