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Lawyer lived unnotable life... until now

Saturday, April 29, 2000

By The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The one-man rampage police identified as Richard Scott Baumhammers was, by all accounts, a young man remarkable only for his intelligence -- a man who lived so quietly that most neighbors didn't know he was there.

  Suspect Richard Baumhammers is led into the courtroom of magistrate Don Eiler in Beaver Falls to be arraigned for killing five people. (John Heller, Post-Gazette)

The 34-year-old Baumhammers, accused of a horrific series of events yesterday that appeared to target racial and ethnic minorities and left five dead and one critically injured, described himself as an international lawyer, and was remembered as a promising student who exemplified the immigrant success story in America. The son of a dentist who immigrated to the United States from Latvia after World War II, Baumhammers grew up in an upper-middle-class section of Mt. Lebanon, attended both college and law school, studied abroad and appeared headed for an unremarkable career in Atlanta.

"He was a guy we all predicted would be a successful lawyer," said Bill Dyer, who was president of the Class of 1992 at Cumberland Law School in Birmingham, Ala., where Baumhammers attended. "There are always people in every group you look at and say, 'I wonder what the heck that guy is going to end up being.' We never had any questions about Richard that way."

Dyer described Baumhammers as gregarious, a good student, in the top third of his class at a school he described as "probably middle of the pack."

"He was an individual who was sought to participate in study groups because he always had a firm grasp on the subject matter. And he was a personable guy," Dyer said.

Baumhammers grew up in one of the better parts of an already upscale community: Virginia Manor, an expanse of spacious, modern homes off Cochran Road in Mt. Lebanon. He graduated in 1984 from Mt. Lebanon High School, where he was second-string kicker on the football team.

His father, Andrejs Baumhammers, came to the United States in the 1950s from Latvia with his parents. Andrejs Baumhammers became a successful dental specialist and served as chairman of the Department of Periodontics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Dental Medicine. Baumhammers' mother, Inese, also once taught periodontal dentistry at Pitt.

A colleague said Andrejs Baumhammers graduated first in his class at Pitt's dental school in 1959 and was a local pioneer in the 1960s of a dental implant technique to fill in missing teeth.

Francis Ceravolo, a classmate and later a faculty member with Andrejs Baumhammers, said he brought Richard with him to the clinic sometimes when the boy was a toddler.

"I would ask sometimes how his kids were doing, and there was never, never any sign of anything wrong," said Ceravolo. "I'm sure he's just devastated. This is a gentleman who as chairman was absolutely fair with everybody. ... He was in dental school with all types of racial and ethnic groups and foreign students, and there was never any evidence of any problem with it."

The Baumhammers children appeared to have succeeded academically. A sister, Daina Baumhammers Pack, is on the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Her husband, James Pack, last night said they knew nothing of the incident. "Being this far away, we have no comment and no involvement," he said.

Richard Baumhammers graduated from Kent State University in Ohio in 1989 and immediately moved on to law school.

After graduating from Cumberland, a school founded 151 years ago by the Southern Baptist Church, Baumhammers enrolled in a specialized, one-year international program at the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif.

He received a master's degree in transnational business practice and specialized in both immigration law and international law.

"He didn't seem like a typical candidate for an international law program," said Eric McElwain, a lecturer who oversaw the program. "A lot of the students in this program speak some other language and have some other international experience. And from what I remember, I don't think he had much international experience."

In fact, Baumhammers had spent one semester of his studies at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, an internationally acclaimed school that had a cooperative program with Cumberland.

But where Dyer recalled a promising student sought out for his study skills, McElwain said the young man who arrived in Sacramento a year later was so-so.

"He seemed like a nice enough guy. He certainly was not in any way distinguishing or outstanding," McElwain said.

For several years in the mid-1990s, Baumhammers lived in Atlanta, where he was listed with the International Law Section members of the Georgia Bar Association. He moved to the Lennox Gables Apartment Complex, where rents top $1,000 a month, in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood 10 miles north of the city center.

"It's a young professionals' building; a lot of people are there until they buy a house," said Stephen Duffy, who lived at the time across the hall from Baumhammers but never got to know him.

Sometime in the late 1990s, Baumhammers returned to Pittsburgh, where he listed himself as the Baumhammers Law Firm, giving his parents' Virginia Manor address.

Last year, he let his county bar association membership lapse and seemed to show little activity as a lawyer.

Two young women in his neighborhood said they met him over the Internet, where they said he used the screen name Rbaumhamme in a chat room on America Online.

"Anyone here from the South Hills?" the one girl, 15, said he asked. When they discovered they were neighbors, the girl said she introduced Baumhammers to her sister, Shannon Grenadier, 21, who lived nearby.

Grenadier said he told her he was single, lived on Elmspring Road, and was an international lawyer.

According to the 15-year-old, Baumhammers dropped off the chat room about two months ago, and when his screen name recently reappeared, "I didn't feel like talking to him."

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