A birthday party planned for Saturday for the Akron woman and Aultman Hospital social worker killed Thursday by her firefighter fiance will become, instead, a celebration of her life.
Miranda Zenner, owner of Pegasus Pub in Akron, said she talked with Olivia Hamey just hours before Twinsburg firefighter Demetrius T’Juan Butler shot Hamey in the basement of her home with her two children upstairs. He later shot himself in the chest and died at Summa Akron City Hospital.
The Summit County Medical Examiner's Office is conducting autopsies that are expected to be completed this week, but confirmed that Butler had a single shot to the chest and Hamey’s body had multiple gunshots.
Zenner said she hired Hamey in 2014 to tend bar at Pegasus. Hamey wanted to work a second job to save money for a house.
The two women became friends who communicated often and were planning a birthday party hours before Hamey died.
Zenner said they agreed to tell Butler that it was a surprise party so he would not disapprove.
Zenner said her friend had a vibrant, bubbly personality, but she was also tenacious, working her way through school and eventually buying the house she was working for.
Scott Dejournett, owner of the Hall of Fame Barber Shop, worked with Hamey at Pegasus and said his former co-worker became a friend.
“She brightened up the room,” Dejournett said.
Dejournett said when he was experiencing a difficult time, Hamey lent an ear.
“I almost lost my life and she wasn’t trying to be nosy,” Dejournett said. “She just reached out as a friend.”
Hamey’s oldest sister, Mary Keen, said Hamey was fun-loving and caring from the time they were children. The personality Hamey’s friends described as bubbly and vibrant started early.
“Everywhere we went as a family,” Keen said, “she was the center of attention.”
Keen said she learned about her sister’s death in a 4:30 a.m. phone call from her other sister, Andrea.
“She said, ‘Has mom called you yet?’ ” Keen said. “And I heard her crying on the other end.”
Keen said her family has known Butler’s family since high school, where she and Butler’s sister were in the same class. Keen said her family decided not to say negative things about Butler, because his family, too, is suffering.
“They are going through everything we are going through,” Keen said. And their grief is compounded by the knowledge of the actions he took the morning of Hamey’s death, Keen said.
It was evident from condolence messages posted for Butler that his family and friends were grieving. A former classmate from Coventry said Butler was kind to her when she was a freshman in high school.
"Demetrius had a light about him that radiated through that beautiful smile and contagious laugh of his," wrote the woman. "I remember as a freshmen, he was a junior and was so kind to me."
Another message from an Akron resident praised Butler for his kindness.
"While my heart is so heavy from losing such a sweet soul," it reads, "I offer up my prayers for the family and friends."
Visitation and funeral services for Butler will be held from 10 a.m. to noon at Rhoden Memorial Home, 1101 Palmetto Ave., Akron.
Butler, who graduated from Barberton High School and attended the University of Akron, had worked as a part-time firefighter/paramedic in Norton and other departments before his employment at the Twinsburg Fire Department.
Steven Bosso, assistant fire chief and public information officer at the Twinsburg department, said Tuesday that the department is still dealing with the shock of Thursday's events.
"It’s a tragedy for many families, including our own here at the fire department," Bosso said. "But in light of the situation, there are no firefighter honors. Members are struggling with it."
Efforts to contact Butler's family were unsuccessful.
Keen said her sister’s independence may have intimidated Butler, who seemed to want a stay-at-home wife.
“She took care of herself. Everything that my sister had, she did on her own,” Keen said. “And she worked very hard to get it.”
Heidi Huscroft, a record audit specialist with Summit County Children Services, said Hamey was a vibrant presence at the agency. They worked together for about three or four years before Hamey moved on to Aultman Hospital in Canton.
“You knew she was coming when she came through,” Huscroft said. “She was sunshine when I would see her at work. She was always smiling.”
Condolence messages left at the online guestbook of Hamey’s obituary are very similar: “Olivia was one of a kind.” “Liv was a beautiful person in and out.” “She truly left a smile in my heart.” “You were such a blessing to work with.”
Again and again, guests write about Hamey’s love for her children, who attend an Akron elementary school. After the incident, the school made crisis counselors available for students and adults.
Keen said that Butler’s love for Hamey was evident despite the tragic end to their relationship.
“He would shower her with gifts,” Keen said. “He would send her flowers every week.”
At some point, though, a clash of personalities seemed to take place. Hamey’s friendly, outgoing nature appeared to disturb Butler more and more.
While talking with her sister about four months ago, Hamey told Keen about her plans for a destination wedding with Butler in August 2020.
“At that time, she kind of mentioned that ‘He’s kind of tripping,’ ” Keen said. “ ‘He doesn’t like me going out as much as I do. He just wants me at home.’ ”
Hamey mentioned something similar to Zenner, the Pegasus owner said. At some point — Zenner thinks it was about a month ago — she removed her ring and made an ultimatum.
“She told him she was not going to put the ring back on until he got counseling,” Zenner said.
Keen told a similar story.
“She took the ring off … and told him if he didn’t get counseling she didn’t want to be with him,” she said.
Later, Zenner said, Hamey put her ring back on. Zenner speculated that it might have been because Butler agreed to counseling.
Because Hamey did not get her birthday party, Zenner and friends will hold a celebration of life about 10 p.m. Saturday at Pegasus Pub. On Thursday, her friends also plan a candlelight vigil at the establishment.
Zenner said the personality differences between Hamey and Butler were stark and may have helped lead to the tragic conclusion of their relationship.
“I definitely feel like he wanted her to be something [she was not],” Zenner said. “That’s the feeling I got from him. He always seemed uncomfortable.”
Before taking his own life, Butler told a dispatcher that the pressure had been building inside him.
“The police told my mom that he had a tracker on her phone,” Keen said. “When they weren’t together, was he following her? I don’t know.”
Keen believes the love Butler had for her sister, for whatever reason, went awry.
“I think he was obsessed with her,” Keen said. “And if he couldn’t have her, no one could.”
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-3859 or firstname.lastname@example.org.