UPDATE: Michael Hance may have been a kook, but he was a kook with very good aim. Police say nearly all of his victims died quickly after being shot at close range in the head, according to the initial autopsy results. See update after the jump…
Michael Hance did his best to wipe out his girlfriend Rebecca Dieter’s entire family
rampage that began yesterday morning in Copley Township, a suburb of
Akron, Ohio. Police say the problem was sparked at 11 a.m. by a visit
from an out-of-town guest. That’s when an unnamed gunman lost it.
Police are still processing four different crime scenes in a bloody
Police aren’t releasing a motive — nor are they saying what prompted the gunfire — but the gunman decided to first shoot his girlfriend at one home.
He then ran to a second home and confronted his girlfriend’s brother. That’s when he shot the brother and four other witnesses.
He then began chasing bystanders through back yards, shooting one while two other people managed to seek refuge in a house. The gunman entered the home at shot at least one of the people hiding before leaving.
By that time he was confronted by a cop and a former police officers, which led to a shootout. The cop killed him.
Rumor has it that the shooting started over a home improvement project, but that’s just speculation at this point.
Police haven’t officially released the names of the dead, but neighbors say they include:
– Autumn Johnson, a 17-year-old high school student.
– Autumn’s grandparents Russ and Gertie Johnson.
– Brian Johnson, believed to be Autumn’s uncle
– Scotty Deiter, an 11-year-old boy from Kentucky who was visiting his aunt.
We’ll keep you posted as more details become available. (Special thanks to reader Silas Wainwright for the tip.)
UPDATE: Police have ID’d the killer as Michael Hance.
76-year-old Gilbert Elie lives just two houses away from where the shooting began. He says he heard gunshots Sunday morning and a neighbor calling for help. He went outside to find a woman face down in a pool of blood in her driveway. Her husband was leaning against the garage, already dead.
Elie then noticed the windows of their car had been blown out. He looked inside to see the couple’s teenage granddaughter shot to death. Another woman he didn’t recognize was also dead.
A woman in the home next door then emerged from her house. Moments later Michael Hance emerged from behind her, shooting her multiple times.
That’s when Elie decided to run for cover. He says Hance and Rebecca Dieter had been living in the neighborhood for at least two years.
Though details are still a little sketchy, it seems that after gunning down all those people, Hance began to chase four others through the backyards of neighbors’ homes. He shot and killed at least one before chasing Rebecca’s 11-year-old nephew Scott Dieter into a home and killing him.
When he emerged from that house, he was caught by a cop and a former cop. A running shootout commenced before the unnamed officer was able to gun down Hance.
At least one friend of the family says the shooting stemmed from an argument over the estate of Rebecca Dieter’s parents. And that dispute was apparently sparked by a visit from Rebecca’s brother, Craig Dieter, who along with wife Beth and son Scott were visiting from Kentucky.
Police have now confirmed the dead as Russell and Gudrun Johnson; Amber Johnson and her father Brian Johnson; Craig and Scott Dieter; and an unnamed 16-year-old girl whose name is being withheld until her family can be informed.
In fact, it seems the only one to survive is Rebecca Dieter. She’s currently hospitalized and police are saying much about her condition, but it seems she’s in bad shape, since detectives still haven’t been able to interview her.
Though police still aren’t sure of everything, they seem to have a rough idea of what happened during the shooting.
They say Hance first shot girlfriend Rebecca Dieter at the home they shared. Then he went next door and shot five of her relatives: Russell and
Gudrun Johnson, their son Craig, their granddaughter Autumn and a teen who has not been identified.
But Craig’s wife Beth, who was for spared for some reason, believes Hance was targeting certain people for execution.
He then chased Rebecca’s brother Bryan Johnson and 11-year-old Scotty Dieter through neighboring yards. Hance caught up with Bryan and gunned him down. Then he went looking for Scotty.
The boy had run to a neighbor’s home, where a woman, her boyfriend, and children took him in and hid in the basement.
Hance broke into the home and found Scotty. He ordered the family out before executing the little boy.
But when he tried to make his escape, at least one officer and a former cop were on the scene. It’s believed that the cop shot Hance when he refused to drop his weapon.
Hance is thought to have carried two handguns during the rampage. He has no previous arrest record, but police say there was a previous incident in another town that may indicate he had stability problems.
Neighbors believe the shooting stemmed from a dispute over the condition of a home left behind by Rebecca and Craig’s deceased parents, but there’s still no word about what the exact problem was. Craig, his wife and son had come to Copley from Kentucky in hopes of settling the problem.
Hance has also recently lost his job, and Rebecca was pressing him to find work again. But he’d apparently told others that he didn’t need to work because he was an inventor.
Rebecca Dieter and Hance had been dating for roughly 20 years. They used to live in a home in nearby Akron, but that house was foreclosed on. So when Rebecca’s mom died, they moved into her house in Copley Township.
Though Hance had lost his job at a printing company, he apparently wasn’t big on finding new work or keeping up the property. Neighbors say the home had gone to junk and that Hance even had an old car on blocks in the yard — the ubiquitous white trash conversation piece.
That prompted neighbors to complain to the couple. Nextdoor neighbor Gudrun “Gerdie” Johnson asked Hance to clean it up. She later told others that Hance was so mad he told her to get off his property and to never come back.
Others had reportedly complained to the township trustees about the state of the home.
So Craig Johnson drove up from Kentucky to settle the problem. He wanted the home sold, but Hance didn’t seem to be going for that idea. That may be why he made such an effort to hunt down and kill Craig’s 11-year-old son Scotty.
Meanwhile, police have identified the final victim. 16-year-old Amelia Shambaugh had spent the night before the murders having a sleepover with her friend Autumn Johnson (See her Facebook memorial page here). It seems her only sin was that she was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
UPDATE IV: Most of Hance’s victims died quickly after being shot in the head.
The initial autopsy reports are in, and if Michael Hance was a loser in life, he seems to have been a skilled executioner just before his death.
Hance himself died from a single gunshot wound to the torso, believed to have been fired by officer Ben Campbell. Both Campbell and Keith Lavery, a former cop turned school teacher, opened fire on Hance when he refused to drop his weapon.
Autopsy results for Hance’s victims:
- Russell Johnson, 67, Hance’s neighbor, shot in the head and chest.
- Goodrun Johnson, 64, Russell’ s wife, shot once in the head.
- Bryan Richard Johnson, 44, the Johnson’s son, multiple shots in the head.
- Autumn Johnson, 16, Bryan’s daughter, shot in the chest, neck and limbs.
- Amelia Shambaugh, 16, friend of Autumn, shot in the head and leg.
- Craig Dieter, 51, brother of Hance’s girlfriend, shot multiple times in the head.
- Scott Dieter, 11, Craig’s son, shot once in the head.
See our last story from the Mass Murder file: Nadia Braxton Kills Her 3 Children at Louisiana Home.