Details on victims begin to emerge
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Neighbors on the quiet Green Tree street where Elizabeth "Betsy" Gannon lived were devastated by the news of her death.
Ms. Gannon, 49, had spent almost her entire life in a two-story red brick house on Sheldon Avenue.
"I have three daughters of my own. She was like the fourth one," said Carl Rady, 69, who has lived next door to Ms. Gannon for 35 years.
"She was one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. She always had a smile on her face."
Mr. Rady and his wife were home last night when detectives arrived looking for family members. He agreed to go to the medical examiner's office to identify Ms. Gannon's body.
Today, Ms. Gannon's boyfriend and a female friend answered the door at her home as her labrador, Lady, barked in the background. Her sister was driving in from Ohio.
"She was loved by everybody," said Mary McVay Fensel, who described herself as a close friend.
Ms. Gannon was a graduate of Canevin High School. She worked in the radiation department at Allegheny General Hospital.
The hospital released the following statement from Patrick J. DeMeo, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery:
"Everyone at West Penn Allegheny Health System is extremely saddened by the loss of Elizabeth Gannon. Betsy was not only a tremendous asset as a radiology technologist at Allegheny Orthopedics for the past 13 years, she was also a wonderful, caring person whose smile would brighten the day of both her colleagues and patients.
I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Betsy's family during this difficult time. She will be greatly missed at West Penn Allegheny, where her life touched that of so many others."
In Collier, family members gathered at Heidi Overmier's home this morning recalled a petite, energetic woman who was a devoted single mother to a 15-year-old son, Ian.
"He was her life," her sister, Connie Moneck, 52, of West Mifflin said.
Ms. Overmier, 46, was director of group sales at Kennywood Amusement Park, a place close to her heart. Her family said she had worked there during the summer throughout high school and returned about 10 years ago in a full-time position after graduating from Penn State University and living for a time outside Pennsylvania.
Ms. Overmier was a regular at the dance class where she was killed. Her brother, James Stapf, 48, of Rillton, said he learned of the shooting last night on TV and decided to call his sister.
"Her son answered the phone, and I asked to speak to her, and he said, 'She's down at the fitness club,' " Mr. Stapf said. "I said, 'Are you joking with me?' "
A neighbor whose husband is a police officer at a local suburban department had been at the scene and relayed the news that Ms. Overmier's car was in the parking lot, the family said.
"When we got the phone out of her car this morning, we got seven or eight text messages: 'Heidi, are you OK?' They knew she went to that class. 'I hope you're at Bible study, not the gym,' " Ms. Moneck said.
The third victim, Jody Billingsley, 37, had lived alone in her red-brick Colonial home in Mt. Lebanon for seven years. Neighbors and friends said she was a native of Utica, Venango County, and moved to the neighborhood, near the boundary with Banksville, after taking a job as a physical therapist.
"I used to see her at the hospitals when I'd be there [for treatment]," said neighbor John Williams, who learned of Ms. Billingsley's death this morning. "She was a wonderful girl."
Ms. Billingsley later moved on to another job as a sales representative with a medical equipment company, neighbors said. That job kept her busy traveling, and she spent much of her spare time running, biking and working on her lovingly tended yard, they said.
"I'm very angry today [at Ms. Billingsley's killer]. She was such a sweet girl. She would bend over backwards to help you out," said next-door neighbor Carole Gallo, who recalled that Ms. Billingsley was summoned to assist champion Russian figure skater Tatiana Totmianina in 2004 after the pairs skater was injured in a horrific headfirst fall at Mellon Arena.
Mr. Williams' wife, Diane, screamed for her husband and sobbed in her yard after learning of Ms. Billingsley's death from another neighbor this morning. The Williamses said they saw her leaving her home last night between 7 and 7:30 p.m., apparently on her way to the fitness center.
"I cannot believe it," Mr. Williams said. "She pulled out [Tuesday night] and I waved and she honked."
Mr. Williams said he often teased Ms. Billingsley about her dedication to her neatly mowed yard and sloping front garden teeming with purple coneflowers and impatiens, spiky lamb's ear, shrubs and ornamental grasses and lighting. She'd landscaped the yard after moving into the house, he said, and she enjoyed making it bloom.
"I'd kid her. She'd be working in the yard and I'd call over, 'Jody, You don't have to come over and do mine,' " Mr. Williams said.
When she wasn't working in her yard, Ms. Billingsley zipped around the neighborhood on her bike or jogged, earphones tucked in and her blond ponytail bouncing as she ran.
"Then I worked the polls [for elections] and she'd come in and I wouldn't recognize her because she'd have her hair down," Mrs. Williams said. "She was so beautiful. I've never known anyone who got killed."
Ms. Billingsley worked as a local representative for Medtronic, the Minneapolis-based medical technology and device company. Company spokeswoman Cindy Resman would not say how long she worked for Medtronic.
In a statement, Ms. Resman said company officials learned today of Ms. Billingsley's death in the "tragic and unfortunate" shooting.
"Medtronic is deeply saddened by her loss and has offered support to Jody's family and to those who knew and worked with her," Ms. Resman said. "We are working with the family to honor their wishes with regards to a memorial.
First Published August 5, 2009 12:08 pm