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Victims left in wake of rampage

Saturday, April 29, 2000

By Milan Simonich, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The five people slain in yesterday's rampage ranged from a neighbor of the suspect's to complete strangers.

Information on all but Mt. Lebanon resident Nicki Gordon was sketchy.

At Robinson Town Centre and Scott Towne Center, police roped off the shooting scenes and whisked family members of the victims in and out without letting them speak to reporters.

And later in the day, the family members of the victims either couldn't be located or refused to answer questions, saying they were too distraught.

Here are sketches of the five people who were shot to death, plus a sixth victim who was shot in the neck and remained hospitalized.

Nicki Gordon

The cruelest irony of Nicki Gordon's life was that she died violently.

"She was the kindest person in the world," said Ellen Selker, her good friend for 30 years.

Gordon, 63, was shot dead yesterday at the beginning of a killing rampage that police believe was committed by Richard Baumhammers. He is suspected of killing four more people after Gordon, who was his next-door neighbor when he was growing up in Mt. Lebanon.

Gordon and Baumhammers were residents of the stately Virginia Manor neighborhood. Allegheny County property ownership records show that both families settled there in 1969, when Baumhammers was about 4 years old.

That he -- or anyone -- would harm Gordon was inconceivable to her friends.

"She had a heart of gold," said Lois Balk, another longtime friend.

Balk, like others who knew Gordon, couldn't bring herself to say anything else. The hurt of losing her friend was too much.

Gordon's death, like much of the rampage, seemed to have racial or ethnic overtones.

Gordon, born Anita B. Horvitz on Nov. 22, 1936, was Jewish. After she was slain, investigators believe, Baumhammers attacked two synagogues, including Beth El Congregation in Scott, where a swastika was smeared on a brick wall and glass doors were shot out.

Beth El was where Gordon and her husband, Sanford, attended services.

Rabbi Neal Scheindlin, who has been at Beth El for four years, knew Gordon slightly. Scheindlin said Gordon and her husband were longtime members of the congregation.

The Gordons have three daughters, Annette Gordon of Amity; Linda Gordon of Boston; and Dr. Nancy Gordon of Philadelphia.

Gordon also is survived by a sister, Seima Horvitz, of Squirrel Hill.

Gordon loved dogs and was especially devoted to her Shetland sheep dog, Chipper. She also was a talented amateur interior decorator, loved art and thrived on travel with her husband.

"We used to laugh that she'd been everywhere twice, so she would have to go to the moon," said Sylvia Sachs, another friend.

Turnout for the last night's regular service at Beth El was substantially higher than normal. People from throughout the region attended, in part to remember Gordon, whose gentle ways ended on one of the most violent days in the region's history.

Theo Pham

Pham, 27, of Castle Shannon, was a deliveryman at Ya Fei Chinese Cuisine at Robinson Town Centre. He was attacked inside the restaurant in front of customers.

Ji-ye Sun

Sun, 34, of Churchill, was the manager of the restaurant. He also was shot in front of onlookers.

A woman who answered the phone at his house said, "I don't think we can talk about this right now. We are in a very, very bad mood."

Garry Lee

Lee, 22, was a beginning student at the C.S. Kim School of Karate in Center, Beaver County. He had gone to work out with his best friend when he was shot.

The manager of the supermarket where Lee worked refused to talk about Lee, and his friend could not be located later. Police also refused to answer questions about Lee.

Anil Thakur

Thakur, 31, in the United States on a work permit, was shot dead at the India Grocer in Scott Towne Center.

He originally was from Bihar, India, and has no known relatives in the United States. He worked for the WideCom Group, a Canada-based producer of copiers and scanners.

Sandip Patel

Patel, 25, is manager of the India Grocer. He was shot in the neck and suffered paralysis.

Doctors operated on him for two hours to remove the bullet. He was in critical condition last night, but his vital signs had stabilized, said Linda Ross, a spokeswoman at Mercy Hospital.

Staff writers Mike Rosenwald and Ann Belser contributed to this report.

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