An eerie similarity is emerging today between a multiple family homicide in Pennsylvania and a case dating back nearly six years that involved the slaughter of a family in Carnation, because both involved daughters, but in the Pennsylvania case, at least one intended victim fought back.
In Pennsylvania, according to various news agencies including the Associated Press and today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Josephine Ruckinger reportedly used a 12-gauge sawed-off shotgun to fatally wound her mother while her husband, Jeffrey, used a .22-caliber pistol to kill her 47-year-old brother last Friday night. However, her father, John Frew, managed to arm himself with a .22-caliber revolver to shoot them both dead before they could kill him, too. The case is so shocking that it was even covered by the Daily Mail in Great Britain.
On Christmas Eve, 2007, Michelle Anderson and her boyfriend, Joseph McEnroe, are alleged to have killed her parents, Wayne and Judy Anderson, her brother Scott and his wife, Erica, and their two children, Olivia, 6, and Nathan, 3. One account in the Seattle P-I at the time, was chilling. Today, the King County Prosecutor’s office advised Examiner by e-mail that Prosecutor Dan Satterberg will pursue the death penalty against both suspects in the wake of a State Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that affirmed his decision, which had been overturned by a King County Superior Court judge earlier this year.
Attorneys for Anderson and McEnroe may ask the state high court to reconsider, thus delaying the trial even longer.
There will be no trial in Pennsylvania, but people both there and here will never understand what drives family members to commit such crimes. Depending upon which news account one reads, there currently is no answer, or the murders may have been about an inheritance squabble.
The Journal-Constitution reported that the shootout began when Roberta Frew answered the door of their home. She took a point-blank shotgun blast from her daughter and then Jeffrey Ruckinger, armed also with a Derringer, shot John Frew, Jr. in the chest.
The elder Frew quickly armed himself and fired one round that struck his daughter in the head. He then turned the gun on her husband, killing him as well.
The shooting occurred in Ashville, Pa., east of Pittsburgh and about 40 miles southwest from College Station. Carnation is a rural community several miles east from Seattle in King County in the lower Snoqualmie Valley.
Tragic as it is, the Pennsylvania case demonstrates that having a gun in the home enables someone to fight back even in the face of horrible violence. That the elder Frew remains alive is only because he had a loaded handgun available, and he knew how to use it. Gun prohibitionists seem intent on removing that option, despite claims to the contrary.
Over the weekend at the Gun Rights Policy Conference in Houston, self-defense expert Massad Ayoob of Florida discussed the possible aftermath of a self-defense shooting, including the possibility that one might have to defend himself in court for having defended himself on the street. In the Pennsylvania case, that is not likely to be a problem, and one can conclude that in order to face an investigation for having used lethal force, one must have survived the confrontation.
The Carnation case outraged the community for weeks afterward, but now, more than half a decade later with the suspects still facing trial, the public memory has somewhat faded. It no doubt will be rekindled as the case moves forward toward the mid-January trial date.
This may leave some in western Washington wondering just how long it takes for justice to be served, while in Pennsylvania today, that question has already been answered.