Millersville shootings began with domestic dispute Tragedy shocks quiet neighborhood

June 21, 1993|By John W. Frece and Kris Antonelli | John W. Frece and Kris Antonelli,Staff Writers Staff writer John Rivera contributed to this article.

At first, some thought it was a series of thunderclaps they heard, or someone setting off firecrackers in the midst of a summer squall.

But neighbor Bud Shoemaker said he immediately recognized the sound that interrupted the peace of a steamy June evening in his normally quiet Millersville community: it was the rumble of gunshots.

By the time Anne Arundel County police arrived Saturday night, three people were dead and a fourth wounded, victims of a domestic dispute turned violent.

"I heard four or five shots," said Mr. Shoemaker, who lives several doors away from the pale yellow end-unit town house in the 200 block of Chalet Circle West where the shootings occurred. "I hunt, and I know what gunshots sound like."

Officer Terry Crowe, a county police spokesman, said investigators still aren't sure why Michael Allen Champigny, 46, turned the pump-action shotgun on himself after killing his ex-wife, Theresa Anne Champigny, 39, along with her boyfriend, Jeffrey Larkin, 35, and wounding Ms. Champigny's 16-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

Police said the Champignys' 4-year-old daughter watched in horror as her father, arriving at the home of his ex-wife the evening before Father's Day, first shot Mr. Larkin twice as he tried to flee the house, then shot Theresa Champigny twice while in the kitchen. He then shot the 16-year-old in the leg.

Mr. Champigny then killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head, police said.

A second 16-year-old was hiding in a downstairs laundry room at the time of the shooting and was unharmed, police said. Police would not divulge the names of the teen-agers or the 4-year-old girl.

According to investigators, Mr. Champigny arrived at his ex-wife's home at 7:30 p.m. -- ostensibly to pick up the 4-year-old for the weekend -- when an argument involving the three adults began.

Mr. Champigny announced that he had a gift for his young daughter and went outside to his car, returning to the house with a long box, police said. When he opened the box, his ex-wife and Mr. Larkin could see that it was a shotgun.

Mr. Larkin tried to escape with Ms. Champigny and the 4-year-old but was shot and fell on the front steps.

"They were quick shots: boom, boom, boom, boom, then a pause, then boom, boom, boom, boom," Mr. Shoemaker recalled. He had been watching a movie on television when he heard the first shots.

Deneann Johanson, who moved three weeks ago from Glen Burnie into one of the 32 town houses aligned in a neat square around a central parking lot, got a much closer view.

She said she had just returned from the grocery store and was unpacking bags from the hatchback of her car in the rain "when I heard pop, pop, pop," and then children crying and screaming.

The fourth shot

"I thought, 'Oh my God, fireworks have hurt somebody,' " she said. Then she said she heard a door slam open and saw a man running out of a town house 50 yards or so across the parking lot to her right.

"The fourth shot hit him in the back as he was running off the porch. I seen him arch his back and fall off the porch," she recalled yesterday.

The man collapsed face-down on the concrete front steps, his head toward the bottom and his feet near a pot of yellow chrysanthemums at the top, said neighbors, who quickly congregated outside as police and rescue vehicles arrived.

Mr. Shoemaker, Mrs. Johanson and other neighbors interviewed yesterday said they did not know any of the victims other than to wave or speak to them when they passed in the parking lot.

Matthew Tracey, son of Michael Champigny's fiancee, Barbara Tracey, said Mr. Champigny worked as a repairman for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. He described Mr. Champigny as "unlucky," and said he "had a lot of heart for things he cared about."

Trying to rebound

"He was a guy that nobody gave a break," Mr. Tracey said. "He was trying to rebound from mistakes he'd made in the past and nobody would give him a break."

Mr. Tracey would not say what the mistakes were other than that they did not involve trouble with the law.

Barbara Tracey did not want to comment.

Those interviewed in the neighborhood where the shootings occurred described the community as quiet, peaceful and friendly, although they said neighbors often do not know each another.

A number of houses around the square have been sold in recent

months, and some are rental units, including the town house where the shootings occurred.

Had it not been for Saturday evening's storm, the parking lot probably would have been crowded with children playing or riding bicycles, several neighbors said.

A dazed little girl

Mrs. Johanson, who let the 4-year-old girl and her grandparents use her living room as a refuge for a time Saturday night after the shootings, described the little girl as "dazed."

"She said she was several feet away from the actual murder," Mrs. Johanson said.

Police reported that the girl was standing in the doorway unharmed when they arrived.

Yesterday morning, a woman and two girls, presumably friends or relatives of the slain woman, entered the town house using a key and removed clothing, books, a teddy bear and a large, bright pink dollhouse made of plastic. They declined to comment.

Mr. Shoemaker watched them come and go and shook his head.

"You know, it's a beautiful, sunny day. It's Father's Day. And you look at that house and. . . . Well, it's just a mess."

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