Police rule out church sermon as possible motive in hotel slayings

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) — Investigators trying to figure out why a man opened fire during a church service last weekend, killing seven parishioners and himself, effectively ruled out the possibility Wednesday that he was set off by something he heard in a sermon two weeks earlier.

Terry Ratzmann, 44, went on the shooting rampage at a hotel in suburban Milwaukee. He regularly attended Saturday services held there by the Living Church of God.

Ratzmann had walked out of a service on Feb. 26, and police were looking into whether something in the sermon upset him.

But Brookfield Police Lt. Mark Millard said that investigators found nothing to indicate the service was a “turning point” in Ratzmann’s life, and don’t consider it a likely motive in the investigation “unless something else comes up.”

“No one has come forth to us and said, ‘He was really ticked about this,”’ Millard said. “We don’t know what was going on inside his mind.”

The sermon, delivered by a top church official and shown to the congregation on DVD, was about how Christians should lead their lives, said J.D. Crockett, director of business operations for the church. Although Ratzmann walked out, he returned later and visited with church members, Crockett said.

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“It wasn’t like he left the building in a rage,” he said.

During the shooting, Ratzmann appeared to target the pastor’s family and hit others at random. The pastor and his teenage son were killed, and his wife was wounded.

Investigators said they have virtually ruled out Ratzmann’s impending loss of his job as a computer technician as a motive and are focusing on his connection with the church. They said Ratzmann knew his contract as a technician was about to end.

A search of Ratzmann’s computers had not revealed anything of significance, Millard said. “We are still looking. It is probably going to take weeks to look at that stuff.”

Meanwhile, friends and relatives of one of the shooting victims, 58-year-old Richard Reeves, gathered for his wake in South Milwaukee Wednesday. His funeral was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Pat Crivello, who worked with Reeves at a metalworking company, said Reeves was religious but never tried to push his faith on anyone.

“I’m angry,” she said. “This violence, there’s got to be an end to this.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Associated Press, via wvgazette.com, USA
Mar. 16, 2005
Robert Imrie, Associated Press Writer

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