David Nelson still has the bullet that might have killed him and his sister.
The tiny metal symbol brings little solace to the 18-year-old Akron man, only vivid memories of what happened to his friends when a gunman opened fire early Sunday inside his East Archwood Avenue home.
Anna Karam, 16, and four months pregnant, died of a gunshot wound to the head. Jessica Halman, 19, of Norton, is showing signs of recovery at Akron General Medical Center after suffering a similar head wound.
On Monday, Nelson recalled the outburst of alleged gunman David Stoddard, 24. He recalled as many as eight bullets being fired as Stoddard pursued him and others through the house. It only ended with a jammed gun over Nelson’s and his sister Jolynn Risten’s heads.
“He came in ruthlessly and just started shooting,” Nelson said.
Stoddard is in custody, charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder and felonious assault. Those who witnessed his rampage are left asking why.
Stoddard, who lives in Barberton, had at one time dated Nelson’s other sister, Jennifer Risten. The 21-year-old woman lives with Nelson and Anna at the South Akron home.
Jennifer Risten and Stoddard dated a short time last year and broke up months ago. The two remained friends and Stoddard showed no signs of trouble, including earlier when he joined the group during an outing.
“After 2:30 everything went sour,” Jennifer Risten said Monday.
Stoddard showed up at his ex-girlfriend’s home on East Archwood Avenue about 4 a.m. Sunday. Nelson was the first to see him at a back door. Stoddard was armed and angry and looking for Jennifer Risten. She wasn’t home.
“I walked up to him and I tried to talk to him but he wasn’t having any,” Nelson said. “He told me he was on a bunch of trash and I said, ‘Not here, we’re going to have to go outside real quick.’ ”
“He was like, ‘No, I’m here on some trash, I got some guns.’ ”
Trash is slang for anger or torment.
In a flash, Stoddard burst inside the home, pulling out his gun and firing the first of about eight shots. Karam and Jolynn Risten were coming downstairs amid the shouting and gunfire. Nelson said he tried to rush the women upstairs. But the gunfire was starting.
Karam was struck first while in the stairway. Halman, who had tried to talk to Stoddard, was shot near the kitchen. No one else was injured.
Nelson recalled holding Jolynn Risten on the floor when Stoddard’s gun jammed over their heads. Stoddard then pleaded for Nelson to kill him.
“After the gun jammed, he kept putting it in our face, telling us we knew what it was [that triggered his outrage] and then he asked me if I could put the gun in his mouth. For a second, I wanted to do it. He just took my best friend’s life,” Nelson said.
Instead, Stoddard fled the home and got inside a black Nissan Pathfinder. He apparently drove to a Wadsworth motel, where police spotted his SUV parked on High Street. Wadsworth officers and Medina County SWAT officers arrested Stoddard without incident inside a room later Sunday morning.
Stoddard’s attorney, Jon Sinn, said he could not comment on a potential motive.
Stoddard is being held in the Summit County Jail under a $250,000 cash bond. He pleaded not guilty during his initial appearance Monday morning in Akron Municipal Court.
A grand jury is expected to hear the evidence later this month. Based on the accusations, a death penalty indictment is possible.
Stoddard, an Army veteran who left the service through a medical discharge, has no prior violent arrests. He was charged in November with carrying a concealed handgun. His license to carry a firearm had lapsed, his attorney said. He was free on a $10,000 bond at the time of the shooting.
While friends said he appeared fine with the recent breakup with Jennifer Risten, Stoddard penned a line about love and heartache that he posted on his Facebook page.
“Love is pain. Pain is heartache. Heartache is breathlessness. Breathlessness is the beginning of love. This is a original quote by David Stoddard for anyone who has ever been hurt,” he wrote.
Friends meanwhile say Karam was looking forward to becoming a mother. She had previously lived in Barberton and recently left the high school. Karam and Stoddard were friends and the gunman “loved that girl,” friends said.
Karam was living with Jennifer Risten and Nelson with the consent of her mother, Patricia Karam.
“She was a very beautiful young girl,” Jennifer Risten said, fighting back tears. “She didn’t deserve to go. She was so happy about that baby. She had her whole life ahead of her.”
Anna Karam was expecting a son. Patricia Karam provided a brief comment on the telephone while making funeral preparations for her daughter and unborn grandson.
“It was senseless,” she said. “Everybody loves Anna and Anna loved everyone and the person who shot her was her friend. He killed my baby and he killed my grandbaby.”
Halman was a longtime friend of Jennifer Risten, who joined a group for a night out. Halman, however, returned to the home and stayed with Anna Karam while Risten went back out. Friends say Halman was in the hospital’s intensive care unit but was moving her fingers and talking Sunday night.
Jennifer Risten was still trying to comprehend what happened. And why.
“I guess he was looking for me, he was looking for sex,” she said. “If he came here loaded, that means he came here looking to kill me, which, that’s even more crazier, which I don’t [see] him doing.”
“He’s a very sweet guy. I just want to ask him why. What was he going through? …What triggered him to be here like that? I want a why.”
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.