Noise dispute led to double homicide, suicide in Hempfield, state police say
November 8, 2013 12:14 AM
Bob Donaldson / Post-Gazette
A state police official consoles people who are believed to be relatives of shooting victims at the Hempfield Heights Apartments in Hempfield on Wednesday.
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hours after two killings outside a Hempfield apartment complex, police entered the apartment of the suspected gunman and found him dead of a self-inflicted wound.
They also found a chilling sentence on a yellow sticky note:
"Can only be provoked so long before exploding."
State police said the man, Philip Cancilla, 51, acted alone when he opened fire on his upstairs neighbors with whom he had an ongoing argument about noise. Both had filed complaints in the past two weeks against each other with the apartment manager of Hempfield Heights, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Christina Marie White, 23, was shot five times in the head and back. Her boyfriend, Timothy Reffner, 30, was shot six times, Westmoreland County coroner Kenneth Bacha said.
The pair were outside the apartment building and leaving to do their laundry when Mr. Cancilla started shooting with .22- and .45-caliber handguns, both registered to him, police said. The two were found dead in the parking lot.
Minutes before the ambush, Mr. Reffner had talked on the phone with his brother, Edward, in Somerset County, who said nothing seemed out of the ordinary, authorities said.
"I just can't think right now, I'm so sorry," Edward Reffner said when reached Thursday by phone. His voice breaking, he added: "I just loved him."
State police spent hours Wednesday setting up a perimeter around the complex and going door to door in search of the shooter. Tactical officers twice tried to communicate with Mr. Cancilla using a bullhorn, then entered about 2:30 p.m.
While authorities released more information Thursday about how the events played out, questions lingered about the shooter: perhaps, above all, was what, if anything, beyond the noise complaint had prompted the killing.
"It's absolutely horrible, and what actually transpired this particular morning we don't know right now," state police Trooper Steve Limani said.
Inside Mr. Cancilla's apartment, authorities found several weapons, martial arts magazines and an upright punching dummy.
A search of criminal court records showed Mr. Cancilla, who once worked as a machinist, had only a single traffic ticket last month in Greensburg. His family could not be reached for comment.
Edward Reffner said his brother, an Army veteran, had served 18 months in Iraq and returned "without a scratch" to Pennsylvania, Mr. Bacha said.
Ms. White was a part-time jail correctional officer at the Westmoreland County Prison. She previously worked as a security guard at Walmart but always wanted a career in law enforcement, said her brother Curtis "Zeus" Gantt. The pair, he added, were both fitness buffs.
"She loved life," Mr. Gantt said of his sister. "Her smile could light up a black hole."
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.
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