By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Police were still trying to determine on Monday why a 51-year-old man shot and critically wounded his longtime girlfriend and killed seven other people in a quiet Ohio suburb before he was killed by police.
Police said Michael Hance shot Rebecca Dieter, 49, and chased down her brother Craig Dieter, 51, and his 11-year-old son Scott Dieter and shot them dead in a Sunday rampage in Copley Township, near Akron, Ohio.
The shootings took place in the area of a house that Hance sometimes lived in with Rebecca Dieter, but it was not known if any of the shootings took place in that house, Copley police chief Michael Mier said.
Police said Hance also went to a neighbor's house and shot homeowners Russell and Gudrun Johnson, both in their sixties. Their son Bryan Johnson, 44, and his 16-year-old daughter Autumn were also shot and killed there.
The name of another victim, also 16, was not released pending family notification.
An initial investigation by Copley police found no criminal or mental illness record for Hance. Mier said there was also no record Copley police had ever been called to either his Copley address or another in Akron for domestic violence.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Mier said. "The suspect has very little background."
A neighbor and friend of the victims, Carol Eshleman, who had been a caregiver for Rebecca Dieter's deceased parents, said Hance had a temper.
"Mike was a very strange character," Eshleman said. "Mike was very troubled." She said she had heard the dispute was over money.
HID BEHIND A TRUCK
Gilbert Elie, who lives a couple houses down from the crime scene in the semi-rural, upscale residential neighborhood, told Reuters he rushed to the scene when he heard shots fired.
There, he saw bodies strewn on the ground and heard the groaning of one woman and saw blood "running out from under her," he said.
Then a woman Elie said was the accused shooter's girlfriend came out of another house. "I was talking to the girlfriend and this guy walked up and blasted her and she fell down the steps," Elie said.
Elie ran and hid behind a truck. "She was crying 'help, help,'" he said, adding that he ran home and called the police.
About 300 people participated in a prayer vigil for the victims on Sunday evening, many of them high school students, as the town of 14,000 people tried to piece together events in Copley Township, 40 miles south of Cleveland.
At 10:55 a.m. local time on Sunday, police had responded to a 911 call of reported gunshots in the area and subsequent calls saying a man was chasing someone.
Police played a 911 call during a Monday news conference from a woman hiding in her basement with her three children as Hance entered in the house looking for Scott Dieter. Mier told reporters that it appears Hance allowed that woman and her children to leave but shot the boy at that location.
Mier said two police officers, including an off-duty officer who lives in the neighborhood, saw Hance as he was leaving the house where Scott Dieter was shot. Hance was shot and killed by the on-duty officer, initial coroner reports said.
Mier said two handguns were found at one of four crime scenes being investigated by various law enforcement agencies.
(Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Greg McCune and Cynthia Johnston)