EATON TWP. — After months of planning, a Franklin Twp. man barricaded the doors of the Weis supermarket early Thursday morning and slaughtered three coworkers before turning his shotgun on himself.
Randy Robert Stair, 24, fired 59 shots from two pistol-grip 12-gauge shotguns at the store at 600 Hunter Highway in Eaton Twp. — a shocking outburst of violence that rattled a rural county of roughly 28,000 people to its core. The massacre lasted only minutes.
“It is obvious this was pre-planned,” Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell said.
The three people killed are Terry Lee Sterling, 63, Bridgewater Twp.; Victoria Todd Brong, 26, Factoryville; and Brian Hayes, 47 Springville Twp.
State police said five people, including Stair, were working inside the store during the overnight shift. Another worker, who authorities declined to identify, escaped unharmed and called 911.
“The fact that three people can lose their lives by simply going to work underscores how senseless this tragedy is,” Mitchell said.
Stair spotted the worker who escaped, Mitchell said. While she was in close proximity to him, Stair did not shoot her.
“We don’t know the reason why,” Mitchell said.
‘Many, many leads’
Stair arrived at Weis for his overnight shift beginning at 11 p.m. on Wednesday. Within two hours, he blocked the five entrances of the building, some more heavily than others, state police said.
Stair parked his car against an emergency exit, took off his red uniform shirt and grabbed his shotguns. Then he locked the main doors, which he had also blocked with a pallet loaded with full cardboard boxes.
“It looks like he was trying to slow down anybody who might be trying to get in or out,” state police Capt. Jonathan G. Nederostek, commander of Troop P, said.
Then Stair opened fire. He also shot up counters and aisles and did extensive damage to the store. Mitchell said he shot at propane tanks in the store, presumably to ignite them. State police found two propane tanks in his car.
Why he did it, though, remains an open question.
“It’s an ongoing investigation we‘re following up many, many leads,” Nederostek said. “We’re looking at everything from social media to witness interviews to neighborhood interviews. We’re looking at every angle we have.”
The investigators have a lot to consider.
Stair left behind a large amount of social media posts, documents and videos in which he made clear his intentions to commit murder and then take his own life. Moments before the shooting, Stair uploaded a vast trove of documents to Twitter, posting after, “Goodbye humans...I’ll miss you...”
In a journal entry written by Stair on May 29 and posted online, he wrote he hopes this shooting inspires more shootings. He also outlined his plans on how to shoot his victims in chilling detail.
He hoped to record the shooting, but doubted he would have time to and whether it would ever be played in public, he wrote. He also railed against the supermarket and said he hopes the store loses business after the shooting.
“We have his phone via a search warrant and it’s in the hands of our computer crimes experts so they will be downloading it and recovering anything we can off it at this time,” Nederostek said.
Authorities will pore through Stair’s digital presence. It’s expected to take some time, said state police Lt. Gary Vogue, the crime section commander.
It’s not clear who, if anyone, may have known about his plans. However, Mitchell said there is little doubt social media played a role in the tragedy.
“If you see someone or know someone who is making veiled threats online or is acting suspicious, please call the police,” Mitchell said.
State police had descended on Stair’s home on Ransom Road later Thursday morning. The home, on a country road in Franklin Twp., has a pool and appeared well-maintained.
Neighbors said he lived there with his parents and a brother, and that the family appeared quiet and normal.
“They’re a very nice family,” said a neighbor who did not want to be identified. “I’m sure their hearts are broken.”
His mother, Lori Ann Stair, did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Stair texted his sleeping mother a suicide note at 12:37 a.m. on Thursday, Mitchell said.
Court records showed Stair had no criminal history in Pennsylvania, and his only interaction with the justice system was a 2011 traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic device.
Stair was a 2014 graduate of Luzerne County Community College with an associates degree in applied science. He previously attended Dallas High School, where he made the honor roll several times.
As a senior, Stair held a “Bowling for Autism” fundraiser in honor of his autistic cousin.
Weis Market issued a statement about the shooting.
“We are deeply saddened by the events of this morning. The safety of our associates, our customers, and our surrounding community is our top priority.”
At the press conference, James Daly, regional vice president of Weis, reiterated the company statement. He declined to say how long Stair worked at the store. In Stair’s videos, he claimed to have worked there for about seven years.
By 3:25 p.m. on Thursday, state police began taking down the yellow police tape which cordoned off most of the parking lot for the majority of the day. Peering through the front glass windows, the store appeared eerily normal. The lights burned bright. The aisles, visible through the main door before staff taped up a black tarp to block prying eyes, were undisturbed.
Only one thing seemed out of place: a red pallet, loaded with boxes, in the middle of the floor.
James Halpin, David Singleton, Terrie Morgan-Besecker and Robert L. Baker, staff writers, contributed to this report.