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Property tiff led to massacre in Ohio, neighbors say

Michael Mier, police chief of Copley, Ohio, detailed the slaying of seven people. Michael Mier, police chief of Copley, Ohio, detailed the slaying of seven people. (Phil Long/ Associated Press)
Associated Press / August 9, 2011

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COPLEY, Ohio - A gunman who killed seven people during a weekend rampage in his Ohio neighborhood cornered one of his victims, his girlfriend’s 11-year-old nephew, in the basement of a house, ordered out the family sheltering the boy, and then shot him, police said yesterday.

Michael Hance’s cold-blooded killing of such a young victim after stalking seven other people on a tidy suburban Akron street named Goodenough Avenue was, neighbors said, the culmination of a family and neighborhood dispute over a home that once belonged to his girlfriend’s parents.

Hance, 51, had no criminal record before the killings late Sunday morning and his death in a shootout with police in Copley, where a flag flew at half-staff yesterday outside the home where the carnage began.

Hance had recently become angry over residents’ comments about the property, where he lived with his girlfriend, Becky Dieter, said neighbor Carol Eshelman. About a month ago, Hance’s next-door neighbor Gudrun “Gerdie’’ Johnson asked Hance to clean up the property, which included a broken-down car on blocks.

Johnson, 64, was killed in the attack, along with her husband, 67-year-old Russell Johnson; their 44-year-old son Bryan Johnson 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, Hance’s longtime girlfriend and a Veterans Administration clerk, was also shot and remains hospitalized.

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