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The Associated Press
By MICHAEL RUBINKAM
1/16/02 11:31 AM
Ann Tracy, Ph.D., Executive Director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, confirmed that this man was taking Effexor at the time of the murder-suicide.
ARDMORE, Pa. (AP) — A man shot his wife, her parents and his stepdaughter to death before killing himself at a home in this wealthy Philadelphia suburb, police said.
A woman made a desperate phone call summoning police to the home Tuesday, but the line was disconnected as the rampage began, Lower Merion Township Police Superintendent Joseph Daly said.
“There was some shouting in the background and the line went dead. The dispatcher attempted to call back and there was no response,” Daly said.
Police arrived at the house minutes after the call, he said, but the gunman, identified as Michael Burgess, had already shot the four family members and himself.
Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Halbert E. Fillinger Jr. identified the victims as Cassandra Burgess; her father, Jim Watkins; and her 14-year-old daughter, Alexandra Wake. He could not immediately provide the name of Cassandra Burgess’ mother.
When police arrived at the home they found Watkins in the back yard with multiple gunshot wounds. He told police the shooter was inside, Daly said. Police found three bodies on the first floor and the girl’s body on the second floor. Watkins died later, police said.
Daly said Michael Burgess, 44, disrupted a service on Sunday at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church, prompting a call to police, but he couldn’t provide further details. The church is a few blocks from the family’s home.
A friend said Burgess was taking medication for depression.
“I’m not sure, but it just seemed like he was doing fine,” Tyrone Burrell told WTXF-TV. “I talked to him last week.” Burgess’ stepdaughter, Alexandra, attend a prestigious private all-girls school in Bryn Mawr and was a good student who was involved in school activities, Baldwin School spokeswoman Leslie Pfeil said.
“She had a great personality, upbeat, always smiling, popular, friendly, charismatic even,” Pfeil said. “A girl with a lot of potential.” Neighbor Lynn Kerrigan said she knew Jim Watkins.
“(He) was the very first person who came over and introduced himself when my family moved here,” Kerrigan said. “He welcomed us and he knew everyone on the street. He was just wonderful.”
Lower Merion Township, which includes Ardmore and borders Philadelphia, is one of the state’s wealthiest suburbs.