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Ohio shooter was in property dispute

COPLEY, Ohio -- A gunman who killed seven people during a weekend rampage in his Ohio neighborhood cornered his last victim, his girlfriend's 11-year-old nephew, in the basement of a house, ordered out the family sheltering the boy and then shot him, police said yesterday.

Michael Hance's cold-blooded killing of such a young victim after stalking seven other people on an Akron street was, neighbors said, the culmination of a dispute over a home that once belonged to his girlfriend's parents.

Hance, 51, had no criminal record. The outburst late Sunday morning ended with his death in a shootout with police in Copley, where a flag flew at half-staff yesterday outside the home where the carnage began.

Hance had recently grown angry over residents' comments about the property where he lived with his girlfriend, Becky Dieter, neighbor Carol Eshleman said.

A month ago, next-door neighbor Gudrun "Gerdie" Johnson had asked Hance to clean up the property, which had a broken-down car on blocks. Johnson related the encounter to Eshleman, explaining that she'd never seen Hance so upset. "He said, 'Get off my property and don't come back,' " Eshleman said.

Johnson, 64, was killed, along with her husband, Russell, 67; their son Bryan Johnson, 44, and his daughter Autumn, 16; Becky Dieter's brother, Craig, and his son, Scott, 11; and an unidentified girl who was slain while in a parked car with Autumn outside the Johnsons' home.

Becky Dieter, the gunman's girlfriend and a Veterans Affairs clerk, was also shot but survived and remains hospitalized.

Comments from police and neighbors help stitch together a picture of a man prone to conflict and under increasing pressure from neighbors to take his life elsewhere.

Hance had worked at a printer's shop in Akron but quit after a dispute and didn't work again, Eshleman said, although Dieter urged him to find a job.

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