Entered the Walter Rossler Co. through the front door
and shot five people with a 9 mm. semiautomatic pistol and .32-caliber
He then left the business through the back door, and shot himself behind
Another one from the disgruntled-ex-employee-returns-on-a-rampage
On April 3, 1995, 28-year-old James Simpson walked into the Walter
Rossler Co., a refinery inspection company in Corpus Christi, Texas, and
killed his former boss, his wife and three other employees. He then
walked out the back door and shot himself.
Date: April 3, 1995
Location: Walter Rossler Company, Corpus
Alleged Shooter: James Daniel Simpson
People Killed: Six (shooter committed suicide)
People Injured: None
Firearm(s): Ruger 9mm pistol and a .32
James Simpson entered his former workplace, Walter
Rossler Co., systematically shooting employees at point-blank range
before going out the back door and fatally shooting himself in the head.
He had worked as a metallurgist for a year at the company before
quitting in September 1994. According to police, the motive for the
shooting was Simpson's apparent depression.
How Firearm(s) Acquired
The firearms were purchased legally, however, police
would not release any information to the public. Simpson had no criminal
record or mental illness history that would have prevented him from
Guman kills 5, then himself
Texas city is rocked by wave of
The Phoenix Gazette
April 4, 1995
A gunman inflicted
more bloodshed on an already grieving city by shooting to death five
people at his former workplace before killing himself, police said.
Hours before the Monday afternoon
massacre at a refinery inspection company, family and friends of slain
Tejano music sensation Selena had bid her a tearful farewell.
Guman kills himself, 5 others in
An ex-employee opened fire at a
refinery inspection firm in Corpus Christi. The owner and his wife died.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
April 4, 1995
A former employee
opened fire yesterday at a refinery inspection company, killing the
owner, his wife and three workers before fatally shooting himself,
James Simpson, 28, entered the
Walter Rossler Co. through the front door and shot five people with a
9mm semiautomatic pistol and .32-caliber revolver, police said. He then
left the business through the back door, and shot himself behind the
Mother, baby spared as gunman
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
April 4, 1995
CORPUS CHRISTI - A
24-year-old woman clutching her infant son was the only person to
survive a face-to-face encounter with gunman James Simpson as he walked
through his former place of employment Monday, methodically killing five
people and them himself.
Lisa Rossler told police she
screamed, "Don't shoot" when Simpson walked in to face her. She said she
was holding her infant son and calling frantically for police help.
Suspect analyzed in Corpus Christi
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
April 5, 1995
Experts in aberrant
crime say that James Simpson, 28, almost certainly was both paranoid and
depressed Monday when he is said to have fatally shot five people and
then killed himself outside the Walter Rossler Co. in Corpus Christi.
"Of all crimes, the one most closely
associated with serious mental illness is mass murder," said Dr. Park
Elliott Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist who has studied mass killers. "They
are not schizophrenic," Dietz added, "but they all show signs of
depression and paranoia."
Victims' families see season of renewal
Emotional wounds still healing 5 years after Rossler Company slayings
Dan Parker - Caller-Times
Monday, April 3, 2000
Rhonda Rossler-Fowler looks at her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Taylor, she
sees something of her parents, Walter and Joann Rossler.
a lot of little traits she's carried on," Rossler-Fowler said. "She
sleeps just like my mother did, with her little arm over her face. And
maybe there's my dad's stubbornness. That's why he was so successful. He
was very set in his mind what he was going to do."
Walter and Joann Rossler were among five people murdered five years ago
today at the Rossler Company, a refinery inspection business now called
Petrochem, on Rand Morgan Road. The killer, a former employee named
James Daniel Simpson, took his own life as police closed in.
Rossler-Fowler and other relatives of the victims, emotional scars
inflicted by the massacre will never go away. But religious faith, time
and support from friends, relatives and the community have gone a long
way toward healing family members' wounds.
births in the families during the past five years have charged them with
a spirit of renewal.
really believe God has a purpose," Rossler-Fowler said. "He needed our
mother and dad, and I don't want to say he replaced them, but it's kind
of like when you pick a flower - another one grows."
addition to killing Walter Rossler, 62, and Joann Rossler, 61, Simpson
also gunned down Richard Lee Tomlinson, 34; Derek Harrison, 35; and
Patty J. "Wendy" Brunson Gilmore, 41.
the time of the shootings, Corpus Christi still was reeling from the
murder three days earlier of Tejano star Selena Quintanilla-Perez.
National media already in Corpus Christi covering Selena's murder
pounced on the Rossler story.
far as I can remember, that is probably the worst that ever has occurred
in this city as far as a situation involving a disgruntled (former)
employee," said Corpus Christi Police Chief Pete Alvarez. "To go to the
extreme of returning and killing five individuals, that is something
that brings a lot of folks together in the community to focus on things
unexpected," Alvarez said. "I guess it kind of opens your eyes to
reality, that these things do occur. Sometimes, we read about these
things in the paper, sometimes they occur elsewhere, but when it hits
home, it really has an impact on a community."
Rossler-Fowler and her sister, Lisa Rossler-Duff, sold the Walter
Rossler Company about 18 months after the shootings.
Rossler-Fowler is a homemaker living in Calallen. She is married to
Cliff Fowler, a coach at Calallen Middle School.
Rossler-Fowler said she has recovered a little more each of the past
five years since the shootings. But anniversaries of the shootings
always get her down.
time of year every year is really, really rough," Rossler-Fowler said. "Without
even recognizing the date, I can find myself really bummed out, and then
I notice what day it is. . . . It's almost like it's in the air."
Rossler-Fowler said she has found support from friends and relatives and
from her faith.
not an ultra-religious person or a steady churchgoer, but I'm a strong
believer. I know he watches over us. So many (other bad) things could
have happened that day, but didn't," Rossler-Fowler said.
Not many understand
Rossler-Fowler was supposed to be working at the Rossler Company at the
time Simpson began his rampage, but she happened to leave the office
early that day.
Rossler-Fowler had a stepsister who was murdered in Fort Worth several
years ago. That murder, combined with the Rossler Company slayings, has
given Rossler-Fowler a different attitude toward her children.
my other two kids (born before the Rossler killings), I put them in
daycare, and I worked," Rossler-Fowler said. "I never spent the time
with them that I spend with Taylor right now. I'm staying at home with
her. I know what it's like to have something so dear to you and to lose
Rossler-Fowler said she will venture alone to Seaside Memorial Park
today to visit her parents' graves.
a lot easier if I go by myself, because - I don't know how to say this -
there are not too many people around who really understand what's going
on. There are people, but . . . it's like, you've just got to deal with
Tragic day relived
Rossler-Duff, who also worked at the Rossler Co., was sitting in the
company's front room, typing, when Simpson walked in, moments before he
started his rampage.
turned, and he had a really big scowl on his face, and he walked across,
through the office to Wendy," Rossler-Duff recalled.
walked up and said, 'This is for you, bitch.' And then, all of a sudden,
it looked like he was handing her something. I couldn't see what it was.
Then it was two or three pops. It sounded just like a cap gun. . . . At
the time, it didn't register. I couldn't see the gun.
fell forward," Rossler-Duff said. "My mom ran. The other secretary ran.
(Simpson) walked across the hallway where my dad and Richard and Derek
were at. It all happened so fast. . . . He shot my dad and as soon as I
saw my dad fall, I could smell gunpowder. That's when I knew what was
going on. I still didn't see a gun."
Rossler-Duff grabbed her 8-month-old son and crawled under a desk, then
ran to another office and called 911.
Simpson walked in, carrying a handgun in each hand.
closed the door, and I thought I had locked the door. . . . But when I
was on the phone with 911, he walked into the office I was in. I
screamed - and all this is on the 911 tape - I told him, 'No!' And the
look on his face was completely different than what it looked like when
he first walked into the building.
Dylan was in my arms and screaming, I think that brought him back. The
look on his face changed to, like, reality had set in, like, 'Oh my God,
what have I done?' ''
Simpson backed out of the office, walked into another room and shot
described Simpson as a quiet, somewhat meek man. Corpus Christi City
Councilman Henry Garrett, who was police chief at the time of the
Never know why
Simpson likely was angry with the Rossler Company because he was given
an assignment at work he didn't like and ended up quitting. Then the
Rossler Company tried to get Simpson to repay money the company loaned
him for educational purposes, Garrett said.
things piled up on him," Garrett said.
Rossler-Duff said Simpson was not given a new assignment. He wanted to
do metallurgy exclusively but was hired with the understanding that he
had to take on tasks in addition to metallurgy, including inspections,
Rossler-Duff said. Still, after a time, he let his superiors know that
he didn't want to do inspections. So, he quit.
dad sent both supervisors over there, reaching out beyond what most
company presidents would do, trying to get him to come back, because
they did appreciate his knowledge in the metallurgical field," Rossler-Duff
Simpson refused to go back.
Rossler-Duff said Simpson never seemed angry with anyone at the company.
She can't understand why Simpson would leave and then come back eight
months later to commit the massacre.
was hoping that the toxicology report would show he was drunk or on any
kind of drug - something to explain why he did this," Rossler-Duff said.
it said he was a normal, healthy 28-year-old male. And I think that is
the hardest part of all of this, because I'll never know why. Never."
'No time to grieve'
Rossler-Duff is a 29-year-old student studying agricultural science at
Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She will have her degree this spring
and hopes to become a teacher.
Rossler-Duff said she put off her grieving for a long time after her
parents were murdered.
the first year, I had so many responsibilities," she said. "Between
making sure my dad's company didn't go down . . . and going to school
and raising my children, between all that, I had no time to grieve. I
had to set all my grieving behind and make sure things were taken care
Rossler-Duff said she grieves every day now.
have nightmares about it pretty much every night," she said. "It has
changed my life. . . . I have to be selective with what I read, with
what type of TV I watch, with the radio stations, the songs I listen to,
because if I happen to be going through a depression moment, it will
just trigger me into sobs, or it gives me nightmares, and it makes me
relive the whole horrible incident."
she is getting better, she said.
big difference now is that I have learned to let myself grieve," she
said. "I don't hold it back even if I am in H-E-B. Certain smells will
remind me of my mom, and I deal with it a lot better now. If people see
me crying, they'll just have to understand."
Rossler-Duff said her husband, Chris, has offered her great support and
that has eased her ordeal.
couple has had two sons since the shootings took place: Ryder, who will
be 3 years old April 27, and Colton, who will turn 1 on May 24. The
children have helped Rossler-Duff recover.
do keep me so busy that I can't think of what is lost as much as I can
just see the new life that is beginning and that I am responsible for,"
The passage of time
Harrison is buried at a gravesite that overlooks a lake on his parents'
150-acre ranch in Barksdale, near Uvalde.
Harrison has decorated a 3-foot wood cross with silk lilies, daffodils
and irises, and she plans to place the cross on her son's grave today.
Harrison lived in Corpus Christi, but he visited his parents' ranch
was a pretty constant part of our life here, and we miss him a lot,"
Hesta Harrison said. "It brings back so many memories each season.
Hunting season. He loved to hunt. And he's missed, I think, by me more
at that time of year than his birthday or death date or any other time."
Having a loving family has helped the slow process of healing.
first two years were extremely difficult," Harrison said. "The fact that
I do have my daughter and my granddaughters and my husband helped a lot
getting through that period. I miss Derek every day, and that hasn't
stopped. But, in general, I would say my ability to cope and deal with
his loss has gotten somewhat better with the passage of time."
granddaughter born in 1997 boosted Harrison's ability to cope.
helps so much," she said. "I love children, and they just are such a big
part of my life. They would have been in any event, but I just thank God
so many times in this period of time I have had them come into my life
to help me through it, and they have, immensely."
Rossler, 62, and Joann Rossler, 61
J. "Wendy" Brunson Gilmore, 41.
Richard Lee Tomlinson, 34.