1995...Democrat kills 5 co-workers at Texas lab

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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Revenge
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: April 3, 1995
Date of birth: 1967
Victims profile: Walter Rossler, 62, and Joann Rossler, 61 (his
former boss and his wife); Richard Lee Tomlinson, 34; Derek
Harrison, 35; and Patty J. "Wendy" Brunson Gilmore, 41
(employees)
Method of murder: Shooting (Ruger 9mm pistol and a .32 revolver)
Location: Corpus Christi, Texas, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day

Entered the Walter Rossler Co. through the front door and shot
five people with a 9 mm. semiautomatic pistol and .32-caliber
revolver.

He then left the business through the back door, and shot
himself behind the building.

Another one from the disgruntled-ex-employee-returns-on-a-
rampage file.

On April 3, 1995, 28-year-old James Simpson walked into the
Walter Rossler Co., a refinery inspection company in Corpus
Christi, Texas, and killed his former boss, his wife and three
other employees. He then walked out the back door and shot
himself.

Date: April 3, 1995

Location: Walter Rossler Company, Corpus Christi, Texas

Alleged Shooter: James Daniel Simpson

People Killed: Six (shooter committed suicide)

People Injured: None

Firearm(s): Ruger 9mm pistol and a .32 revolver

Circumstances

James Simpson entered his former workplace, Walter Rossler Co.,
systematically shooting employees at point-blank range before
going out the back door and fatally shooting himself in the
head. He had worked as a metallurgist for a year at the company
before quitting in September 1994. According to police, the
motive for the shooting was Simpson's apparent depression.

How Firearm(s) Acquired

The firearms were purchased legally, however, police would not
release any information to the public. Simpson had no criminal
record or mental illness history that would have prevented him
from buying firearms.

Guman kills 5, then himself

Texas city is rocked by wave of violence

The Phoenix Gazette

April 4, 1995

A gunman inflicted more bloodshed on an already grieving city by
shooting to death five people at his former workplace before
killing himself, police said.

Hours before the Monday afternoon massacre at a refinery
inspection company, family and friends of slain Tejano music
sensation Selena had bid her a tearful farewell.

Guman kills himself, 5 others in Texas

An ex-employee opened fire at a refinery inspection firm in
Corpus Christi. The owner and his wife died.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

April 4, 1995

A former employee opened fire yesterday at a refinery inspection
company, killing the owner, his wife and three workers before
fatally shooting himself, police said.

James Simpson, 28, entered the Walter Rossler Co. through the
front door and shot five people with a 9mm semiautomatic pistol
and .32-caliber revolver, police said. He then left the business
through the back door, and shot himself behind the building.

Mother, baby spared as gunman killed 5

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

April 4, 1995

CORPUS CHRISTI - A 24-year-old woman clutching her infant son
was the only person to survive a face-to-face encounter with
gunman James Simpson as he walked through his former place of
employment Monday, methodically killing five people and them
himself.

Lisa Rossler told police she screamed, "Don't shoot" when
Simpson walked in to face her. She said she was holding her
infant son and calling frantically for police help.

Suspect analyzed in Corpus Christi slayings

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram

April 5, 1995

Experts in aberrant crime say that James Simpson, 28, almost
certainly was both paranoid and depressed Monday when he is said
to have fatally shot five people and then killed himself outside
the Walter Rossler Co. in Corpus Christi.

"Of all crimes, the one most closely associated with serious
mental illness is mass murder," said Dr. Park Elliott Dietz, a
forensic psychiatrist who has studied mass killers. "They are
not schizophrenic," Dietz added, "but they all show signs of
depression and paranoia."

Victims' families see season of renewal

Emotional wounds still healing 5 years after Rossler Company
slayings

By Dan Parker - Caller-Times

Monday, April 3, 2000

When Rhonda Rossler-Fowler looks at her 2 1/2-year-old daughter,
Taylor, she sees something of her parents, Walter and Joann
Rossler.

"There's a lot of little traits she's carried on," Rossler-
Fowler said. "She sleeps just like my mother did, with her
little arm over her face. And maybe there's my dad's
stubbornness. That's why he was so successful. He was very set
in his mind what he was going to do."

Walter and Joann Rossler were among five people murdered five
years ago today at the Rossler Company, a refinery inspection
business now called Petrochem, on Rand Morgan Road. The killer,
a former employee named James Daniel Simpson, took his own life
as police closed in.

For Rossler-Fowler and other relatives of the victims, emotional
scars inflicted by the massacre will never go away. But
religious faith, time and support from friends, relatives and
the community have gone a long way toward healing family
members' wounds.

And births in the families during the past five years have
charged them with a spirit of renewal.

"I really believe God has a purpose," Rossler-Fowler said. "He
needed our mother and dad, and I don't want to say he replaced
them, but it's kind of like when you pick a flower - another one
grows."

In addition to killing Walter Rossler, 62, and Joann Rossler,
61, Simpson also gunned down Richard Lee Tomlinson, 34; Derek
Harrison, 35; and Patty J. "Wendy" Brunson Gilmore, 41.

At the time of the shootings, Corpus Christi still was reeling
from the murder three days earlier of Tejano star Selena
Quintanilla-Perez. National media already in Corpus Christi
covering Selena's murder pounced on the Rossler story.

"As far as I can remember, that is probably the worst that ever
has occurred in this city as far as a situation involving a
disgruntled (former) employee," said Corpus Christi Police Chief
Pete Alvarez. "To go to the extreme of returning and killing
five individuals, that is something very tragic.

"Certainly, that brings a lot of folks together in the community
to focus on things unexpected," Alvarez said. "I guess it kind
of opens your eyes to reality, that these things do occur.
Sometimes, we read about these things in the paper, sometimes
they occur elsewhere, but when it hits home, it really has an
impact on a community."

Slow recovery

Rossler-Fowler and her sister, Lisa Rossler-Duff, sold the
Walter Rossler Company about 18 months after the shootings.

Today, Rossler-Fowler is a homemaker living in Calallen. She is
married to Cliff Fowler, a coach at Calallen Middle School.

Rossler-Fowler said she has recovered a little more each of the
past five years since the shootings. But anniversaries of the
shootings always get her down.

"This time of year every year is really, really rough," Rossler-
Fowler said. "Without even recognizing the date, I can find
myself really bummed out, and then I notice what day it is. . .
. It's almost like it's in the air."

Rossler-Fowler said she has found support from friends and
relatives and from her faith.

"I'm not an ultra-religious person or a steady churchgoer, but
I'm a strong believer. I know he watches over us. So many (other
bad) things could have happened that day, but didn't," Rossler-
Fowler said.

Not many understand

Rossler-Fowler was supposed to be working at the Rossler Company
at the time Simpson began his rampage, but she happened to leave
the office early that day.

Rossler-Fowler had a stepsister who was murdered in Fort Worth
several years ago. That murder, combined with the Rossler
Company slayings, has given Rossler-Fowler a different attitude
toward her children.

"With my other two kids (born before the Rossler killings), I
put them in daycare, and I worked," Rossler-Fowler said. "I
never spent the time with them that I spend with Taylor right
now. I'm staying at home with her. I know what it's like to have
something so dear to you and to lose it."

Rossler-Fowler said she will venture alone to Seaside Memorial
Park today to visit her parents' graves.

"It's a lot easier if I go by myself, because - I don't know how
to say this - there are not too many people around who really
understand what's going on. There are people, but . . . it's
like, you've just got to deal with it yourself."

Tragic day relived

Rossler-Duff, who also worked at the Rossler Co., was sitting in
the company's front room, typing, when Simpson walked in,
moments before he started his rampage.

"He turned, and he had a really big scowl on his face, and he
walked across, through the office to Wendy," Rossler-Duff
recalled.

"He walked up and said, 'This is for you, bitch.' And then, all
of a sudden, it looked like he was handing her something. I
couldn't see what it was. Then it was two or three pops. It
sounded just like a cap gun. . . . At the time, it didn't
register. I couldn't see the gun.

"Wendy fell forward," Rossler-Duff said. "My mom ran. The other
secretary ran. (Simpson) walked across the hallway where my dad
and Richard and Derek were at. It all happened so fast. . . . He
shot my dad and as soon as I saw my dad fall, I could smell
gunpowder. That's when I knew what was going on. I still didn't
see a gun."

Rossler-Duff grabbed her 8-month-old son and crawled under a
desk, then ran to another office and called 911.

Then Simpson walked in, carrying a handgun in each hand.

"I closed the door, and I thought I had locked the door. . . .
But when I was on the phone with 911, he walked into the office
I was in. I screamed - and all this is on the 911 tape - I told
him, 'No!' And the look on his face was completely different
than what it looked like when he first walked into the building.

"Because Dylan was in my arms and screaming, I think that
brought him back. The look on his face changed to, like, reality
had set in, like, 'Oh my God, what have I done?' ''

Simpson backed out of the office, walked into another room and
shot himself dead.

Co-workers described Simpson as a quiet, somewhat meek man.
Corpus Christi City Councilman Henry Garrett, who was police
chief at the time of the shootings, said.

Never know why

Simpson likely was angry with the Rossler Company because he was
given an assignment at work he didn't like and ended up
quitting. Then the Rossler Company tried to get Simpson to repay
money the company loaned him for educational purposes, Garrett
said.

"These things piled up on him," Garrett said.

Rossler-Duff said Simpson was not given a new assignment. He
wanted to do metallurgy exclusively but was hired with the
understanding that he had to take on tasks in addition to
metallurgy, including inspections, Rossler-Duff said. Still,
after a time, he let his superiors know that he didn't want to
do inspections. So, he quit.

"My dad sent both supervisors over there, reaching out beyond
what most company presidents would do, trying to get him to come
back, because they did appreciate his knowledge in the
metallurgical field," Rossler-Duff said.

But Simpson refused to go back.

Rossler-Duff said Simpson never seemed angry with anyone at the
company. She can't understand why Simpson would leave and then
come back eight months later to commit the massacre.

"I was hoping that the toxicology report would show he was drunk
or on any kind of drug - something to explain why he did this,"
Rossler-Duff said.

"But it said he was a normal, healthy 28-year-old male. And I
think that is the hardest part of all of this, because I'll
never know why. Never."

'No time to grieve'

Today, Rossler-Duff is a 29-year-old student studying
agricultural science at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She
will have her degree this spring and hopes to become a teacher.

Rossler-Duff said she put off her grieving for a long time after
her parents were murdered.

"For the first year, I had so many responsibilities," she said.
"Between making sure my dad's company didn't go down . . . and
going to school and raising my children, between all that, I had
no time to grieve. I had to set all my grieving behind and make
sure things were taken care of."

Rossler-Duff said she grieves every day now.

"I have nightmares about it pretty much every night," she said.
"It has changed my life. . . . I have to be selective with what
I read, with what type of TV I watch, with the radio stations,
the songs I listen to, because if I happen to be going through a
depression moment, it will just trigger me into sobs, or it
gives me nightmares, and it makes me relive the whole horrible
incident."

A new life

But she is getting better, she said.

"The big difference now is that I have learned to let myself
grieve," she said. "I don't hold it back even if I am in H-E-B.
Certain smells will remind me of my mom, and I deal with it a
lot better now. If people see me crying, they'll just have to
understand."

Rossler-Duff said her husband, Chris, has offered her great
support and that has eased her ordeal.

The couple has had two sons since the shootings took place:
Ryder, who will be 3 years old April 27, and Colton, who will
turn 1 on May 24. The children have helped Rossler-Duff recover.

"They do keep me so busy that I can't think of what is lost as
much as I can just see the new life that is beginning and that I
am responsible for," she said.

The passage of time

Derek Harrison is buried at a gravesite that overlooks a lake on
his parents' 150-acre ranch in Barksdale, near Uvalde.

Hesta Harrison has decorated a 3-foot wood cross with silk
lilies, daffodils and irises, and she plans to place the cross
on her son's grave today.

Derek Harrison lived in Corpus Christi, but he visited his
parents' ranch often.

"He was a pretty constant part of our life here, and we miss him
a lot," Hesta Harrison said. "It brings back so many memories
each season. Hunting season. He loved to hunt. And he's missed,
I think, by me more at that time of year than his birthday or
death date or any other time."

Having a loving family has helped the slow process of healing.

"The first two years were extremely difficult," Harrison said.
"The fact that I do have my daughter and my granddaughters and
my husband helped a lot getting through that period. I miss
Derek every day, and that hasn't stopped. But, in general, I
would say my ability to cope and deal with his loss has gotten
somewhat better with the passage of time."

A granddaughter born in 1997 boosted Harrison's ability to cope.

"It helps so much," she said. "I love children, and they just
are such a big part of my life. They would have been in any
event, but I just thank God so many times in this period of time
I have had them come into my life to help me through it, and
they have, immensely."

The victims

Walter Rossler, 62, and Joann Rossler, 61

Patty J. "Wendy" Brunson Gilmore, 41.

Derek Harrison, 35.

Richard Lee Tomlinson, 34.
 

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