A gunman who killed seven people during a weekend rampage in his neighborhood cornered one of his victims, his girlfriend's 11-year-old nephew, in the basement of a house, ordered the family sheltering the boy out and then shot him, police said Monday.
Michael Hance's cold-blooded killing of such a young victim after stalking seven other people on a suburban Akron street was the culmination of a dispute over a home that once belonged to his girlfriend's parents, according to neighbors.
Hance, 51, had no previous criminal record before the outburst Sunday morning and his death in a shootout with police in Copley, where a flag flew at half-staff Monday outside the home where the carnage began.
Hance had recently grown angry over residents' comments about the property where he lived with his girlfriend, Becky Dieter, neighbor Carol Eshleman said. About a month ago, Hance's next-door neighbor Gudrun "Gerdie" Johnson had asked Hance to clean up the property, which included a broken-down car on blocks.
Johnson told Eshleman about the encounter, explaining that she had never seen Hance so upset. "He said, 'Get off my property and don't come back,' " Eshleman said.
Johnson, 64, was killed in the attack, along with her husband, Russell Johnson, 67; their son Bryan Johnson, 44, and his daughter Autumn, 16; Becky Dieter's brother, Craig Dieter, and his 11-year-old son, Scott; and an unidentified girl who was slain while in a parked car with Autumn outside the Johnsons' home.
Becky Dieter, the gunman's longtime girlfriend and a Veterans Administration clerk, was also shot but survived and remains hospitalized.
Monday, Authorities were still trying to work out details of the shootings and a motive for Hance's actions. But comments from police and neighbors help stitch together a picture of a man prone to conflict and under increasing pressure from neighbors to move.
Hance had worked at a printer's shop in Akron but quit and didn't work again, Eshleman said, although Becky Dieter urged him to find a job.
"Mike was strange," she said, but "I wouldn't think he'd go to this extreme."