Some readers may find this story disturbing! Be
"I'm going upstairs to call Mary Ann,"
said Judy Stanton, as she headed to the second floor
bedroom. "Okay, tell her I said hi,"
replied her husband Doug. Doug rose from his chair
as he punched the tv remote off. Looking up at
the clock, "9 pm, the day was coming to a close,"
he thought. Sunday November 19, 1995, had been
a quiet, uneventful day. The Stanton's thoughts
that day had been with family. They were still
coming to terms with the death of Judy's mother a year
before in a car accident with the sadness and turmoil
it had caused.
It was at the funeral that Jerry Hessler had read
the vehicle license number of the Stanton's van and
had thus discovered that they had moved from Michigan
to Ashland, Ohio. The Stanton's had been stalked
by Hessler in Ohio and Michigan since 1981 when Doug
and Judy were married. Jerry had threatened Doug's
life in November just before the Stanton's were married.
When they moved to Ohio, they had left no forwarding
address in hope of losing Hessler. This worked
for 4 years, until Judy's mother's funeral. It
had started again.
Kira, 8, had just gone to bed. Ben, 11, was
up in his room. Greg, 4, was in the living room
playing on the floor next to the couch where Amber,
13 was reading a book. "Amber, I'm going
down in the basement to work on my BBS," Doug said
as he headed toward the basement and his computer. Doug
ran a free computer bulletin board service. It
was a hobby that allowed him to relieve stress.
Jerry Hessler had had a busy day. It had started
with his preparations for war. War against those
he had nursed his hatred. Eight names were on
his list, compiled and stalked over the last 15
years. He had been on a mission, to kill,
hurt and to cause as much pain as was possible to those
he felt slighted by. He was dressed in a long
trench coat. He wore combat boots and a bullet
proof vest. He carried with him a survival kit,
compass and combat knife. His illegally obtained
Smith and Wesson 9mm gave him the capacity to fire 15
rounds before reloading. With him that night he
had over 250 rounds of ammo, several hundred dollars
in cash stolen from the Stevens', and travel plans to
Mexico. He carried 25 gallons of gasoline to burn
out his victims if needed.
His first stop that night had been the home of Brian
and Traci Stevens, their 5 month old daughter Amanda,
and Brian's eight year old son, Reid. Also in
the house was Ruth Cantor, a close family friend. Hessler
had waited and watched for over an hour before getting
up the nerve to commit his cowardly assault on the defenseless
innocents inside. He carried a container of gasoline
and placed it on the porch, ready for the conflagration
he planned. Inside, Brian Stevens and Ruth Cantor
had looked out the door and had spotted the gas container
while waiting for Ruth's daughter to arrive. Brian
opened the door and spotted Hessler. Running back
inside, Brian warned everyone back and bolted the door.
Hessler, seeing his surprise was spoiled, kicked
the door in. As Hessler came through the door
he saw Ruth Cantor running up the stairs. He shot
her in the leg and turned toward Brian. Brian
stepped toward Hessler in an attempt to stop him. He
didn't stand a chance. Hessler thrust the gun
into his belly and fired once, ripping a hole through
Brian's Aorta, fatally wounding him. Hessler turned
to Traci who held Amanda in her right arm. He
chased her across the room, firing again and again.
When he was sure the woman he once loved was dead,
she had been shot six times, Amanda twice. Hessler
left the Stevens' home. Three dead, one wounded.
Reid had escaped by hiding under a table, out
of the way from Hessler's wrath.
Hessler's next stop was his former supervisor's apartment.
Mark Campolito let Hessler into his apartment
to talk to him. Seeing his agitated state, Mark
turned to go into his room to get his shoes, thinking
he might get into a scuffle with Hessler. Hessler
fired three shots toward Campolito's back, one shattered
Mark's left arm and spun him out of the way of the next
two. Hessler left when Campolito grabbed a rifle
and fired a round into the ceiling.
Hessler's next stop was the home of P. Thane Griffin.
Thane was the father of Laurie Stacey, who lived
in Hawaii. Laurie had refused to date Hessler
years before. Coincidentally, Laurie was talking
to her parents on the phone when Hessler came calling
at their front door. Thane answered the door and
invited Hessler in. After talking with his victim
for several minutes, Hessler turned like he was leaving.
Thinking to himself, "Its now or never,"
he pulled his gun and fired three times at point blank
range. He couldn't get Laurie, but she would suffer.
Sue Griffin came into the living room to see what
the noise was, only to find her husband laying on the
Hessler listened to the radio in his car and felt
four dead would not even make the front page of the
paper. The police knew it was him. He had
made the mistake of leaving witnesses. He decided
to drive the hour to Ashland and take care of Judy and
Doug Stanton. They were the main cause of all
his problems. If only they had let him be their
friends. Many times he had watched their house.
This time they would all die! He could come
back later for the others on his list.
In Westerville, Ohio, Police Sergeant Denise Reffitt,
an old friend of the Stanton's had heard on her police
radio of a multiple homicide involving Jerry Hessler.
This news was "accidently" broadcast
on the wrong channel allowing her to hear it. She
knew Hessler had to have a plan. She went to the
house where Jerry Hessler's brother Jody was in hiding
with his wife Cindy and their family. Sgt. Reffitt
talked with them and came up with several names of who
Jerry might be after.
Among the names thought of was Judy Stanton. Jody
didn't think his brother would go the 75 miles to Ashland
to go after Judy. He didn't know Jerry had been
stalking the Stanton's for years. He had even
made the trip to Battle Creek, Michigan (over 250 miles)
to watch their house when they lived there. Cindy
was adamant, "You've got to contact the Stanton's!"
Sgt. Reffitt got the number of a Douglas E. Stanton
in Ashland, Ohio from information and proceeded to call.
"The line's busy," she said exasperated!
Again and again she hit the speed dial trying
to get through. "What if this isn't the right
Doug Stanton?", Reffitt said.
Debra Stoutenburg had just put her youngest son to
bed. He had been playing in her and her husband, Jeff's
bedroom next to the phone. She wouldn't realize
it until morning, but the little boy had turned off
the ringer to the phone.
Jody and Cindy Hessler told Sgt. Reffitt, "Call
Jeff Stoutenburg, Judy's brother. He'll know if
we have the right phone number!" Jeff Stoutenburg
answered the phone when it rang(despite the ringer being
turned off) and confirmed to Sgt. Reffitt that she had
the correct phone number. She informed him what
was going on.
Again Sgt. Reffitt called the Stanton's, again it
was busy. At that point she called an operator
and identified herself and that the operator needed
to break in on the phone of Doug Stanton as it was a
police emergency. The operator was reluctant,
but finally relented and agreed to ask the users of
the phone to hang up for an emergency call. After
hanging up from the operator, she called again, and
again....it was busy!
Judy and her sister Mary Ann Waldron, had been talking
about an hour on the phone. Suddenly the operator
broke in on the line and said, "There is an emergency
and someone is trying to call you, will you vacate the
line?" Not knowing what to think, Judy agreed
and told her sister she would get back with her."
Upon hanging up the phone immediately rang. It
was her brother Jeff. He said, "Judy, Jerry
Hessler has gone on a rampage. He has killed three
people and shot several others. He may be on his
way there! Get out of your house and go somewhere
safe." Judy wrote down what he said and agreed
and then hung up.
Jerry Hessler paced back and forth in the driveway
of the Stanton's home. He had been here about
10 minutes and was trying to get up the nerve to go
in. He had already killed four people and shot
two others. Now it was time to go for the Jackpot.
Judy should be his wife! Those should be
his kids! This should be his house! He could see
into the house through the dinning room windows. Soon,
Judy flew down the stairs in near panic and into
the basement where Doug was working at his computer.
She blurted, "We've got to leave, now! Jerry
Hessler has gone on a rampage. He's killed at
least 3 people and is on his way here! Judy was
interrupted by the phone ringing. She picked up
the basement extension as Doug arose from the computer.
Doug walked across the basement to where he kept
his Walther PPK .380 auto hidden. He glanced at
the clock, it was 10:05pm. Doug retrieved the
pistol, checked it, loaded it, placed it on safety and
put it in his belt. As he was doing this he could
overhear Judy on the phone. It was Denise Reffitt
on the phone. Jerry Hessler had killed several
people and wounded others. He may be on his way
here. He may have a bullet proof vest on! We
need to flee to a safe place and call the local police
when we were safe. Call her after we had contacted
the police and were safe. Judy wrote down her
phone number as well as Jerry Hessler's license number
and car description. Judy then hung up the phone.
Doug and Judy stood and stared at each other for
a few seconds.
Doug broke the silence and gently pushed Judy toward
the stairs, "Go up and get Kira out of bed, gather
all the kids together and have them get their sleeping
bags. We're either going to the Cooks or the Dojo."
They looked at each other briefly and at the same
time said, "Cook's!" They raced up the
stairs grabbing Greg and Amber as they passed the living
As Judy gathered their children, Doug retrieved his
.45 Govt. pistol, loaded it, then went to his Gun Safe.
Unlocking it, he pulled out his 30-30 deer rifle.
It hadn't been used in years but he knew it would
go through a bullet proof vest. "It was like
a little voice in my head," Doug said, "It
will go through him and the vest...and the neighbors
and the house beyond that." Doug put the
rifle back and locked the safe. Doug started turning
out the second story lights and met the rest of the
family at the top of the stairs. Judy had told
the children they were going to the Cook's to get away
from a bad man. Amber grew nervous when she saw
her father armed, she knew he wouldn't be armed unless
there was danger.
The Stanton family quickly and calmly walked down
the stairs into the living room turning off lights as
they went. Doug wondered to himself how many times
had they practiced as a family, with the kids for just
this situation? It was like another drill. Jerry
Hessler, the dark and sinister stalker had haunted their
family over the last 15 years. Those drills seemed
to be paying off with the orderliness of the children.
Doug thought he needed to check out the windows
to see if he could see any cars outside. The phone
Jerry Hessler could see Doug through the window as
he walked over and picked up the phone. Doug was
on the phone for just a few seconds then he hung up.
He thought, "Something was wrong!" Now,
now is the time! Hessler walked around the back
of the house, past the steps to the north side of the
house. The lights went out in the house. It
was completely dark. The only light was from neighboring
houses and the street light in front of the Stanton's
house. After checking out the north side of the
house and the door there, Hessler walked back toward
the back porch. The back door suddenly opened
a few inches and he could see a shadow in the doorway
for just a second. The door immediately slammed.
The phone startled Doug causing him to forget to
check outside. He rushed over to the phone, shutting
off the living room light on the way. He picked
up the phone. "Doug, this is Mary Ann,"
she said. "Is everything all right?"
Doug curtly replied, "No, everything isn't
all right! I have to go! We'll call you
in a little while." He then hung up and turned
off the last of the lights in the house.
The Stanton's all gathered in the kitchen, bumping
into each other in the dark. Doug passed the clock
on the microwave as he walked over to the door. It
was 10:15. Everyone was bunched up behind him
as he prepared to open the door. He turned to
Judy and said, "Stay in the house for 15 seconds
to give me a chance to check to make sure the way was
clear." Doug then drew his .45, cocked it
and made sure the safety was off. When Doug opened
the door, he saw Jerry Hessler come around the corner
of the North side of the house by the back porch stairs.
Doug looked right into Hessler's eyes and knew
instantly who it was. Hessler was illuminated
by the street light in front of the Stanton house. Doug
thought, "That's odd, he's wearing a long coat
like you see in the old westerns." Then the
anger welled as he thought, great, why did this S.O.B.
have to do this, if I have to shoot him, then I'll be
arrested and have to get a lawyer and we don't need
that financial expense right now."
Doug immediately slammed the door and pushed Judy
and the kids back into the kitchen. He stood in
the doorway with the .45 aimed at the back door. "Everyone
on the floor!" Doug commanded. "Amber,
go down into the basement." The little voice
in Doug's head returned. This time it screamed,
"NO!" Doug immediately said, "NO!
Get down on the floor. Amber laid down on
the floor right next to the basement door. Judy
was in the doorway to the dinning room, with Greg next
to Doug, Ben next to Greg and Kira next to Ben. Doug
waited in front of the door where he could cover the
back door, the kitchen porch window and the front door.
Jerry knocked on the door and said, "Will you
please help me?" Doug responded, "No,
Go away!" Hessler then said, "Please,
will you help me?" Doug again replied, "No,
go away!" Hessler plead a third time, "Please,
won't you please help me?" Doug then replied,
"Go away, I'm armed!"
Lying on the floor between the basement door and
the kitchen wall, Amber could see the shadow of her
father illuminated by the microwave oven clock. He
was standing directly between her and the back door.
This whole situation was like a bad dream. She
had seen the man at the base of the back porch steps,
but didn't recognize him. She could hear the man
talking through the door to her father. Just as
her father said, "I'm armed", his body contorted
to the right. It looked like someone shoved him,
hard! He went down on one knee to the side of
the back door behind the refrigerator.
Hessler pointed his Smith and Wesson 9 mm at the
back door. Obviously the trickery he had used
to enter the homes of two of his previous victims was
not going to work here. He would use his military
training. His vest would protect him. After
all, bullets capable of penetrating body armor were
illegal. Besides, Doug wasn't the type to have
a gun! Jerry fired three shots into the door,
then he kicked the door open, shattering the door jamb
and embedding the door knob in the plaster wall. He
stepped into the house firing again and again into the
darkness ahead of him. He could see his muzzle
flashes reaching out for more victims. A muzzle
flashed to his left. Hessler turned his weapon
toward the flash while continuing to spray lead hoping
to kill the objects of his hatred.
As soon as Amber saw her dad down on one knee, she
heard three loud gunshots. She could hear the
bullets hitting the kitchen cupboard next to her. It
felt like someone was laying on top of her preventing
her from moving. The door came flying open and
she could see the shape of a man standing in the doorway.
Amber looked right up into the barrel of the gun
and saw it belch streams of fire again and again. She
couldn't breath, she hurt all over. Fire spewed
from her fathers gun and the monster in the doorway
One second, Doug was standing in the Doorway, the
next thing he knew he was kneeling beside the refrigerator.
He heard three shots ring out and the back door
flew open with wood splinters flying. Greg screamed
and burrowed under a bag of clothing on the floor. Doug
steadied his handgun on the refrigerator door handle
and instinctively aimed at the figure silhouetted in
the doorway by the neighbors garage light. Suddenly,
to Doug, it was like he was dreaming. It appeared
He was looking down at the whole scene from near the
ceiling from the opposite end of the kitchen. He
could see himself and Jerry Hessler. The next
realization Doug had was Hessler was gone and the gun
was empty. Doug dropped the emptied .45 to the
floor and pulled his .380, releasing it's safety and
cocking it. Getting up he slammed the door and
threw the dead bolt.
Hessler was standing in the doorway firing toward
the flashes to his left. A .45 Super Vel hit his
vest just over his heart. It failed to penetrate
his bullet-proof vest although the bullets impact was
equal to the impact an eight pound sledge hammer with
a baseball swing. Hessler stumbled backwards and
fell down the seven concrete porch steps. The
pain in his chest told him he had been shot. He
got up and staggered back to his car, hunched over with
pain, clutching his chest. He thought to himself,
"Man, the guy's good. He got me from a cross
position, center mass, just like they teach you."
Starting his car, he drove to the end of the street
with his headlights off and turned left, toward the
Doug stood pointing the PPK at the back door. He
knew that if Hessler came back, his family's only chance
was to shoot him in the head. The .380 was no
match for body armor! Doug grabbed the phone and
fumbled for "0" while pointing the gun at
the back door. The Interstate operator came on
the line. After telling her the situation and
asking for the Ashland, Ohio Police, she said, "You
should call 911." Doug replied, "We
don't have 911!" Doug waited an eternity
to be connected to the police.
He did a roll call to make sure everyone was okay.
"Judy, are you okay?" she said,"Yes."
"Greg, are you okay?" He sobbed,
"yes." "Kira, Ben, are you okay?"
Both wispered, "Yes." Doug then
asked, "Amber, are you alright?" There
was no answer. For the first time that evening
fear pierced Doug's heart like a knife. Again
he called, "Amber, are you alright?" The
only reply was Greg's sobbing and the distant sound
of sirens. As the nausea and panic started to
rise in his throat, Doug screamed, "Amber, are
you okay?" Very quietly she said, "Yes,
Daddy, I'm scared." Doug replied, "So
am I, punkin, so am I." Doug's hands started to
Upon connection to the police dispatcher, Doug told
her they were being attacked by a man with a gun. Shots
had been fired and he had shot at the intruder. He
told her their address and that everyone was okay. She
told him help was on the way and that their call was
the fifth one to report the shooting. She then
told him she would call back.
Doug lead his family in a very quick prayer thanking
God for sparing their lives, and asking for help to
quickly arrive. Everyone felt a little better
after the prayer. Doug shakily held the gun pointed
at the back door, ready to shoot anything that came
Sirens in the distance grew louder and flashing lights
appeared coming though the Stanton's living room blinds.
The phone rang. Doug answered. It
was the Police dispatcher. The dispatcher asked
where his gun was. He responded, "One is
in my hand." She asked if he had another
one. He told her it was somewhere in the kitchen
on the floor, empty. It was too dark to see where.
She instructed Doug to put his gun down and to
come out the front door with his hands up and to give
the phone to Judy.
Doug placed the .380 on the computer digitizer pad
next to his computer and handed the phone to Judy. He
then walked to the front door, unlocked it and opened
it. He raised his hands as high as he could and
walked out the front door onto the porch. There
were several police cars in front of the house. The
officers were standing behind the cars with their guns
pointed at him! To his left and to his right two
officers had their weapons leveled at him. As
he walked off the porch and down the steps, a Police
officer, not sure of what was going on told Doug, "Get
your hands higher. You'll be sorry if you lower
them even a fraction of an inch."
Doug was trembling like a leaf, weak in the knees
and sick to his stomach. He softly chuckled to
himself as he was struck by some of the humor of this
situation. He thought of possible newspaper headlines....Ashland
man shot by police when he falls down the stairs.
An officer had Doug lay on the street. Doug
was then hand cuffed, searched, and moved to a kneeling
position behind one of the police cars and sat on his
feet. The police then had Judy and the children
come out with their hands up. When Judy saw her
husband of nearly 15 years hand cuffed, Doug heard her
swear for the first time. Judy was a little upset
about seeing Doug with wrist bracelets on. She
shoved one of the officers out of the way, ran over
to her husband, grabbed him around the neck and said,
"why in the Hell does he have handcuffs on".
She hugged him as he knelt on the ground until
she was escorted to a neighbors house, away from her
Doug was taken into custody for questioning and released
at about 1:30am. No charges were filed against
anyone in the Stanton family. Their actions were
ruled as self defense by the prosecutor. Twelve
shots were fired into the Stanton kitchen by Hessler.
Seven were fired by Stanton. Had Amber gone
into the basement, she probably would have been hit
by four bullets that went through the wall into the
basement way where she would have been standing. None
of the Stanton's were physically wounded, although Doug,
Greg, and Amber were missed by as little as two inches.
Psychologically, the wounds vary. Doug has
difficulty sleeping and to this day cannot remember
firing on Hessler. He also has frequent nightmares
and rarely sleeps through the night. Kira is much
more quiet and reserved. Amber has had many nightmares
and does not like to be separated from her parents for
long. Greg talks about being shot in the eye (apparently
the light from the muzzle flashes). He is nervous
around police or anyone with a gun. On several
occasions, Greg has grabbed his father and begged him
not to shoot the person knocking on the door. He
is also nervous around people he doesn't know and asks
if they are good or bad. Ben seems unaffected.
In the News Release the Stanton's issued immediately
after the shooting, they attribute their survival to
three things: "1)turning off and keeping off all
lights in our house when we felt our safety was in jeopardy;
2)owning a firearm for our personal protection and receiving
thorough training on how to properly use it; and, 3)Divine
Jerry Hessler killed Columbus residents Brian Stevens,
36; Steven's wife, Tracy, 25, and their 5 month old
daughter, Amanda. Brian's 7 year old son survived
by hiding under a table. The Stevens friend, Ruth
Canter, 33 was wounded. Hessler also killed Worthington
resident P. Thane Griffin, 64. Also wounded was
Columbus resident Mark Campolito, 33.
Jerry Hessler's life was saved by his bullet proof
vest. He was caught about a mile from the Stanton's
house on his way out of town. He was treated at
a local hospital for his injuries and released to the
police. He was found guilty on 6 counts of Aggravated
murder, 3 counts of attempted murder, 1 count of felonious
assault, 1 count of burglary, and 1 count of firing
a firearm into a dwelling. Each with firearm specifications.
He was sentenced to death on October 29, 1996.
The sentence was scheduled to be carried out on
November 19, 1997, the second anniversary of his night
of carnage. The Ohio Supreme Court granted him
a stay of execution pending appeals. Appeals are
expected to delay his execution for a minimum of 5-10
years. For the attempt on the Stanton's he received
15-25 years and a $15,000 fine. Since his incarceration,
Hessler was involved in the escape attempt and riot
in the Mansfield Correctional Institution(MANCI) in
The Stanton's have been both praised and vilified
by individuals and the press. Doug has been praised
for protecting his family, as well as condemned for
shooting the "Poor mentally disturbed man".
Doug's character has also been called into question.
"After all, what kind of person must he be
if someone would try to kill him?" The Stanton's
have also been condemned for having a gun and exposing
their children to them. People are quick to espouse
the virtues of gun restrictions; "if it saves one
life it will be worth it". The Stanton family
having a gun saved six lives. Had there been restrictions
on gun ownership, the Stanton's would be dead. This
is a fact, not a hypothetical situation! (The
.45 and the .380 were confiscated as evidence. The
.380 was returned after 2 months, the .45 was returned
11 months after the shootings.)
Some insight to how much of a monster Jerry Hessler
really is can be seen in his cell wall writtings.
No Fear, No Pity, No regret, No remorse!
Am I sorry?
Yea, I'm sorry I didn't get them all!
Oh well, better luck next time.
A bad day in jail is better than any day dead.
Treat me like trash, find out I'm toxic.
Mercilessly plan, relentlessly prepare, violently
F*** them all!
They're dead. Just do it. Just pull the trigger.
No tooth for a tooth, No eye for an eye,
but an eye for a tooth and a life for an eye.
Everyday above ground is a good day and one more
than they have.
I'm in a cell but they're in a box.
Right now the score is 4-0.
If they execute me the score is 4-1.
I may not be at the award ceremony but I have the
The first ones to die lose.
How sad, too bad!
I'm eating a bologna sandwich while the worms are
eating them. Cool!
I'll never walk in the park, drive a car, or see
my home again.
But every day I do something, they can't.
I breath and listen to my heart beat.
They told me to go to hell, but I took care of them
Brian dead, Tracey dead, Amanda dead, Thane dead.
Reid orphaned, Sue widowed, Mark Crippled, Ruth unstable.
Countless friends and family stricken with grief.
Not a bad day's work.
The score is 4 to 0.
Even if they execute me it will still be 4-1.
**Note Jerry Hessler wrote this during his murder
trial on his holding cell wall. The Jury was only
allowed to see the line in italics, not the whole text.
©Copyright 1997, Douglas E. Stanton, All rights
Postscript - Jerry Hessler died of a heart attack
in his jail cell on death row on January 14, 2003. He is now before the
greatest judge of all. The Lord's will is done.