COPLEY TWP.: Her husband had just been killed.
Her son was running for his life through the woods and soon could be murdered, Beth Dieter feared, as she collapsed in a Schocalog Road driveway Sunday morning.
“Somebody get my son!” Dieter screamed as she rocked back and forth outside the home of Maria Flanagan and her boyfriend, Joe Leigh.
Flanagan, a 48-year-old retired nurse who went to the aid of Dieter, on Tuesday recounted the horrifying moments of the massacre that resulted in eight deaths, including the shooter, Michael E. Hance, and Dieter’s husband, Craig, and their 11-year-old son, Scott.
Also injured was Rebecca Dieter, Craig’s sister, whom he and his family were visiting from their home in Kentucky.
In the chaos Sunday, Flanagan said, Dieter first went to the home just south of hers on Schocalog Road and pounded on the door, yelling for help. Dieter then attempted to hide on the front porch of Flanagan’s neighbor, then ran to her driveway, where she fell down from exhaustion.
“My husband has a hole in his head!” she screamed. “I’m a widow!”
Flanagan said that as Dieter rocked and shook and screamed, she pointed to the northeast, where she knew Scott had run toward some woods in a desperate attempt to escape Hance.
She knew Hance intended to kill her son.
“Somebody get my baby!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “My son is in the woods.”
Flanagan had given Dieter water and was sitting on the ground, holding the grieving woman, when paramedics arrived. She stayed with her for about 15 minutes and remained with her when Dieter was taken into an ambulance.
“She was rocking and she was obviously in shock,” Flanagan recalled.
Leigh, 44, said he woke to the sound of screams and gunfire Sunday morning. Then he heard frantic screams from the end of his driveway.
He and Flanagan, still in their pajamas, ran to the end of the driveway to attend to Dieter.
New in neighborhood
Flanagan and Leigh have lived in the Copley neighborhood only since last fall. Her son, Tyler Rasho, said he had a few encounters with Hance in those 11 months.
“He always seemed like he was strange,” Rasho, 21, said.
“I walked by and he would be standing out there just talking to himself sometimes,” he said. “I would look over to see if there was somebody around, and he wasn’t talking to anybody.”
Rasho said he and his family often heard loud arguments coming from the Hance-Dieter home on Goodenough Avenue, loud enough to be heard down the street.
“I’d be in the backyard making a fire and hear them yelling and screaming and arguing,” Rasho said.
He said thinking about what happened in his neighborhood Sunday gives him goose bumps.
“I can’t believe it,” Rasho said. “We live in such a beautiful neighborhood.”
Flanagan said she wonders what would have happened if police had not shot and killed Hance.
“[Beth Dieter] would have been next if he would have caught up with her,” she said.
When Dieter was in the ambulance, Flanagan asked if she wanted her to call someone.
“I have nobody,” Flanagan said she replied.
Search for puppy
On Monday, Beth Dieter’s brother drove through the neighborhood and spoke to Flanagan, telling her the Dieter family had brought a German shepherd puppy with them for their visit to Copley and the dog could not be found.
Flanagan quickly went out in search of the dog.
She walked through the neighborhood calling, “puppy, puppy,” not knowing the dog’s name. She heard the sound of a dog whimpering from behind a home on Briggle Road, around the corner from Goodenough Avenue.
Flanagan and others, including a Copley police officer and township trustee Helen Humphrys, who had gotten involved in the search, saw the puppy, with its leash around its neck, tangled in a tree.
After the rescue, Humphrys asked Flanagan to let her keep the dog so she could care for it for the Dieter family. She said Tuesday she kept it for about three hours before giving it back to a family member.
Finding the dog was one piece of bright news from the weekend ordeal, Flanagan said.
“We wanted to make sure the dog got back to her because that is her only family left,” she said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.