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Gunman Kills 3 and Then Himself

The mother of his child and two women at the catering firm where he worked are slain.

April 19, 2006|From the Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — A man killed the mother of his child Tuesday, then went to the catering company where he once worked and fatally shot two women and himself, police said.

One other woman was shot at Finninger Catering Service and was in stable condition, police said.

Among the dead was an owner of the company, but her elderly husband and business partner may have been saved by a quick-thinking employee who hid him in a walk-in cooler as the rampage unfolded.

Police said Herbert Chalmers Jr. killed Sylvia Haynes, 53, at her apartment Tuesday morning. Hours later, he was overheard bragging about plans to kill his boss, then went to the catering company.

Chalmers and Haynes had a child together, but the state of their relationship was unclear Tuesday, police said.

One of the women killed was Cleo Finninger, 79, who ran the company with her husband, Charles, said Susan Akscin, the woman's niece.

The other was their daughter, Christine Politte, 44, who oversaw payroll, authorities said. The company is on the northwestern edge of St. Louis and employs about 50 people.

Both women were shot in a garage area, police said. The shooter killed himself in the parking lot.

Employee Colette Meissner said she was in the kitchen when she heard shots and the gunman screaming the names of people he intended to kill.

He shouted "Charlie!" referring to Charles Finninger, Meissner said. The owner was in a wheelchair, and Meissner pushed him into a walk-in cooler.

They huddled with another employee and listened as Chalmers kept shooting, Meissner said. They were not hurt.

"I shut the door and we all stood in there and prayed," she said. "We were scared to death."

The women who were killed were fleeing with other workers out the back of the shop, police said.

Police and co-workers described Chalmers as a disgruntled former employee. Some workers said that he might have been angered after being told his wages would be garnished for child support, and that he might have been fired after failing to show up for work a day earlier.

Chalmers was overheard in a Wal-Mart store bragging that he planned to shoot his boss, police Col. Maurice Brown said. Employees alerted police.

Chalmers was still shooting when police pulled up.

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