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Bank Knew Woman Was Being Harassed

November 21, 1995

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ A bank employee who was shot to death in her home was being harassed by an anonymous person and had been offered protection by her employer, the bank said.

The woman had planned to contact police on Monday, said Bank One spokesman John Russell. But on Sunday night, she was shot to death along with three other people. Two people were wounded.

Jerry Hessler, a former Bank One employee, has been charged in the slayings.

Hessler went on a shooting spree because he was upset over being fired more than a year ago, police said. Two of the dead and the two people wounded had worked at the bank in the same division as Hessler.

The spree began when Hessler broke into a Columbus home and killed bank employee Brian Stevens, 36; his wife, Tracy Stevens, 25, also an employee; and their 4-month-old daughter, Amanda, police said.

The Stevens’ 7-year-old son managed to hide from the gunman and wasn’t wounded.

The bank received indications last week that someone was ``showing aggravation toward Tracy Stevens,″ Russell said Monday.

The bank offered to provide Mrs. Stevens with extra security to and from work, but she declined at first, Russell said. She later decided she would go to police on Monday, he said.

Hessler, 38, from suburban Westerville, was angry about being fired from the credit card division of Bank One after he was accused of sexual harassment, police said. Russell would say only that Hessler ``left for cause.″

While no one knew for certain who was harassing Mrs. Stevens, Russell said, some of the people at the bank suspected it was Hessler.

Hessler was charged with three counts of aggravated murder and two counts of felonious assault. He declined to enter a plea at a hearing in Franklin County Municipal Court today. Municipal Judge W. Dwayne Maynard set bond at $750,000 _ and $200,000 on each murder charge and $75,000 for each assault charge. Hessler did not immediately make the bond and returned to jail.

A bank co-worker who was living temporarily with the Stevenses, Ruth Canter, 33, was wounded. She was listed in fair condition at Riverside Monday, but a woman at the hospital who would not identify herself said she found no listing today for Ms. Canter at the hospital.

Police said the spree continued about a half mile away, when Hessler went to the home of bank employee Mark P. Campolito, 27, and shot and wounded him in the left arm.

Campolito was in fair condition today, said Bob Fitzsimmons, a spokesman for the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Investigators said Hessler headed north to suburban Worthington, where he killed P. Thane Griffin. Griffin, 64, had retired last spring after 22 years as president of Ohio United Way.

``We’re pretty sure Hessler knew who he was dealing with when he came to the door,″ said Capt. Mike Mauger, a police spokesman. He did not elaborate on a motive. Hessler had not been charged in Griffin’s death early today.

After Worthington, police said, Hessler headed to Ashland, 75 miles northeast of Columbus, to the home of Judy Stanton, a woman he dated at least 15 years ago.

Mrs. Stanton had been tipped off by a friend who was watching television coverage of the shootings and recalled Mrs. Stanton’s relationship with Hessler, Detective Sandra Ladley said. She had no details.

Mrs. Stanton, her husband, Douglas, and their four children, were met by Hessler as they tried to flee out their back door. They slammed it shut, but he fired three shots into the door and kicked it open.

The husband, armed with two handguns, returned the fire and hit Hessler in the chest, but Hessler was wearing a bulletproof vest so he received no serious injuries, police said.

Hessler fled in his car and was captured a short time later.

Neither Mrs. Stanton, 38, nor her husband and children were hurt.

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