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Fired Bank Employee Guilty of Murdering Four

September 18, 1996

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ A fired bank employee was found guilty Tuesday of shooting to death four people _ including a 5-month-old girl _ in an act of vengeance against those he felt crossed him in life.

Jerry Hessler, 38, faces the death penalty at a sentencing hearing later this month. He sat motionless and said nothing as the verdicts were read.

In November 1995, more than a year after he was fired from Bank One’s credit card center, Hessler wrote up a list of people he felt had slighted him either at work or in love. Then he headed out to kill them.

He arrived first at the home of a couple who worked with him at the bank. The wife had been harassed by Hessler, which led to his firing, and had planned to seek police help the following day.

Hessler broke into their home and shot the 33-year-old woman, her husband and their 4-month-old daughter, killing all three. A bank co-worker staying with the family was also shot but survived.

The couple’s 7-year-old son hid in the home and was not harmed.

The shooting continued a half-mile away when Hessler arrived at the home of a 27-year-old bank employee and shot him in the left arm. He survived.

He then headed to the Columbus suburb of Worthington, and killed 64-year-old P. Thane Griffin. Griffin, who a few months earlier had retired after 22 years as president of Ohio United Way, was the father of a woman who was a friend of Hessler’s years ago.

Hessler then headed to Ashland, 75 miles northeast, to the home of Judy Stanton, a woman he had dated 15 years beforehand and who was now married.

Stanton was tipped off by a friend watching television that Hessler was on the loose. She and her husband decided to gather together their children and head out when they ran into Hessler outside.

The family ran back to their home, but Hessler fired three shots into the back door and kicked it open.

The husband, armed with two handguns, returned fire, hitting Hessler in the chest. Hessler was wearing a bulletproof vest, so he was not seriously injured. He fled in a car and was captured a short time later.

At trial, Hessler’s lawyers called one witness, Cindy Hessler, a sister-in-law who said the family tried to have Hessler treated for mental illness. His lawyers hope to convince jurors Hessler should be spared due to his mental condition.

At sentencing, prosecutors hope to have jurors read some of the things they say Hessler wrote on his cell wall during the trial.

He allegedly wrote ``today the score is 4 and 0 ... when they execute me it will be 4 and 1. I still have the higher score ... not a bad day’s work.″

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