Murder-suicide was a worst-case scenario

May 03, 2011

The day was cold and raw, sputtering snow and rain coated the shale outcroppings of the valley with ice. The quiet of Sunday had settled on the little communities that dot Fulton County. Smoke curled upwards from chimneys as folks left church and noon dinner was being prepared.

Ricky Hann, a sometime truck driver and general laborer, arrived at the home of his former girlfriend Tina Souders, a respected nurse, shortly before noon. According to news reports, Hann took Tina Souders from her home at gunpoint, in front of her mother and her two sons, ages 12 and 13, marched her into the woods behind their neat white house on Cito Road and killed her with two blasts from his shotgun, then taking his own life.

Fulton County was deeply traumatized by this event the next morning. The café was full of talk about what had happened, speculation as to why, and why in Hann's case it had taken so long.

In the Fulton County Medical Center board room, people remembered Tina Souders as a dedicated nurse, with a growing reputation and advancing career. They remembered Hann in his younger days, his hopeful 20s, when he was well thought of and well liked.

In the days following the tragedy and the funerals, a week apart, it became possible to parse the story in such a way that it was apparent that far more than individual criminality made this deadly encounter possible. The act had deep roots in our attitudes and law.

This was evident in a poorly crafted and loosely enforced protective order ostensibly designed to protect Tina Souders from Ricky Hann. Under its terms, Ricky Hann's sister, Carol Sue Keefer, was allowed to keep Ricky Hann's guns in her custody. There appeared to be little judicial concern about the obvious conflicts involved in such an approach.

The night before the shooting, Ricky Hann reportedly went to Tina Souders' home and held her at gunpoint for several hours before being apprehended by Pennsylvania State Police. He eventually appeared before Magisterial District Judge Carol Jean Johnson, who set bail at $100,000 for charges that included kidnapping, burglary and simple assault.

Before midnight that evening, Hann's employer posted $4,000 toward the bail through a bondsman and Hann was released.

This is a worst-case example of what happens when inattention to domestic violence as a crime is coupled with casual attitudes toward keeping guns from those who might not have them.

Spring is coming to Fulton County now, slowly, reluctantly.

Two young men must now go forward without their mother; two families must cope with different but gaping wounds; a community must grapple with its terrible memory.

Spence Perry is a former Hagerstown resident who remains active in Washington County community affairs. He resides in Fulton County, Pa.

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