IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Priest: Gunman darkening room fits evil intent

Before Elizabeth Gannon and two others were killed in their aerobics classroom at a health club, the gunman shut off the lights. "Life was suddenly ended in a senseless act," a pastor said.
Image: Friends and family leave the funeral for Elizabeth Gannon
Friends and family leave the funeral for Elizabeth Gannon at St. Margaret of Scotland church in the Pittsburgh suburb of Green Tree, Pa., on Saturday. Gannon, Heidi Overmier and Jody Billingsly were killed last week in the health club shooting rampage.Keith Srakocic / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Before Elizabeth "Betsy" Gannon and two other women were shot dead and nine more were wounded in their aerobics classroom at a health club, the gunman paused to shut off the lights.

The priest who conducted Gannon's funeral Saturday said that was only fitting.

"Because that's what evil is all about — cowardice. Evil can't function any other way but in the dark," the Rev. Francis "Bud" Murhammer told about 200 mourners at St. Margaret of Scotland Parish Church in Green Tree, a tiny suburb just south of Pittsburgh.

Murhammer was referring to the acts of George Sodini, a bitter loner who was unlucky with women and fatally shot Gannon, Heidi Overmier and Jody Billingsley before killing himself.

Overmier's funeral also was Saturday, a few miles southwest at the First United Methodist Church of Bridgeville, less than a mile from the L.A. Fitness center in Collier Township, where the shootings happened Tuesday night.

Overmier's pastor, the Rev. Josephine Whitely-Fields, said Overmier's "life was suddenly ended in a senseless act of violence, and each one of us have felt the pain and sadness of her departure."

The pastors, and those who eulogized the women, shone more light on the lives of the victims.

'Warm ray of sunshine'
Overmier, 46, of Carnegie, was a single mother who doted on her 15-year-old son, Ian. She worked as an amusement park sales rep and was perhaps best known at her church for annually writing and directing a Christmas play for children, complete with costumes she made.

She was a "devout Christian woman who left loving imprints on our hearts that will be with us until we die," her pastor said.

Gannon, 49, of Green Tree, was divorced and didn't have children. She worked as an X-ray technician at a Pittsburgh hospital but was remembered more for spending her spare time as a surrogate Aunt Bea to her nieces and nephews, for her daily walks with her Labrador retriever and for the pride she took in her Irish heritage.

"Betsy was a beautiful, warm ray of sunshine to everyone she ever met," said Linda O'Brian, a childhood classmate and lifelong friend.

Visitation for Billingsley, 37, of Mount Lebanon, was set for Sunday at a suburban funeral home. Her body will then be taken to Franklin, in northwestern Pennsylvania, where she went to school and grew up, for a second visitation on Tuesday. Her funeral is scheduled for Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church there.

Two of four wounded victims who had been hospitalized were discharged by Saturday. Heather Sherba, 22, of Collier Township, was released from Allegheny General Hospital, and another woman was released from UPMC Mercy hospital, where officials had been asked not to disclose patients' names.

Others hospitalized
Mary Primis, the pregnant 26-year-old aerobics instructor, remained hospitalized in fair condition at Allegheny. Another patient was in serious but stable condition at UPMC Mercy.

Health Club Shooting
FILE - This undated photo released by the Allegheny County Police shows George Sodini who police say opened fire in a women's aerobics class at the LA Fitness in the Great Southern shopping center in Bridgeville, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009. Three women were killed before Sodini shot himself, according to police.Gene J. Puskar / AP

Allegheny County medical examiner's office Deputy Thomas Rabickow said Saturday that Sodini's body had been released to a funeral director, whom he declined to identify. No funeral arrangements for Sodini have been announced.

Generally, funerals in notorious death cases are conducted privately and obituaries run afterward.

Sodini's family did not return telephone calls seeking comment, nor did his former pastor, who conducted a service at his church in Plum on Friday night to address the killings with his congregation.