ELKHART — Community members are making efforts to help the residents of Stratford Commons after a fellow resident is believed to have shot and killed two of his neighbors and seriously injured an office worker at the senior living community Wednesday morning before killing himself.
Lawrence Faso, 76, is suspected by investigators as the gunman responsible for the death of 66-year-old Gail Shields of Elkhart and her boyfriend, 66-year-old Jon W. Malk of Belen, New Mexico, formerly of Elkhart.
The families of those who died are asking for privacy to grieve, although the 8-year-old grandson of Shields had something to say in a recording shared by his mother.
"I loved my grandma very much. I miss her,” he said. “I liked going places with her."
Shields’ mother, Jenelle Ostrowski, reported that the boy mentioned an altercation between the couple and Faso in the weeks leading up to the shooting. She was told that Faso had reported the couple to management in the past, although the motive for the shooting still had not yet been released by the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office. Officials said a motive for the killings is not expected for several weeks.
Stratford Commons remained under lockdown Thursday, much to the dismay of residents and their families.
“We have had family members and friends of individuals residing at Stratford Commons contact us with concerns about their welfare, that they were only able to speak to them by phone and they were concerned about their feelings about the situation,” Council on Aging chief financial officer Tina Fraley said. “Considering it’s normally a locked-down facility, this in particular was adding stress.”
“We’re there frequently transporting individuals to the doctor and other places, and we haven't had issues,” Fraley said. “I’ve personally been there visiting with residents and I have never experienced anything like this.”
Office Manager Mary McCall, 45, was named as the initial victim in the shooting. She was reported in critical condition Wednesday night following her afternoon surgery, but is apparently doing better as of press time.
The Council on Aging of Elkhart County is also working to set up grief counseling.
Tim Stair, a Council on Aging board member and pastor at Hively Avenue Mennonite Church, has been in contact with several other area pastors to coordinate an outreach for Stratford Commons residents who may be in need of the service.
“This kind of thing seems to be happening periodically throughout the country and now there’s one in our community,” Stair said. “I’m mostly feeling bad for the residents because I know it causes trauma in people’s lives when these things happen in the complex in which they reside and consider home. One of the things that several people mentioned was that it seemed like it would be helpful.”
Grief counseling is expected to go on for the next several days, depending on how many pastors Stair can get to join him.