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Cousins Huddled to Protect Each Other As Woman Opened Fire

November 1, 1985

SPRINGFIELD, Pa. (AP) _ A 25-year-old former mental patient accused of killing two people and wounding seven during a shooting spree began toting a rifle weeks before the shopping-mall rampage, neighbors said.

Residents of a small apartment complex where Sylvia Seegrist lived in Crum Lynne said Thursday the rifle drew their attention but not their surprise.

″I thought, ’Well, I wonder what she’s up to now?‴ said Evelyn Highes, 38. ″She wasn’t right really ... different from anybody else around here, completely.″

Police say Ms. Seegrist, wearing a knit cap and Army fatigues, got out of her car at Springfield Mall Wednesday afternoon and opened fire with a .22- caliber semi-automatic rifle, killing 2-year-old Recife Cosmen of Minquadale, Del., and Augusto Ferrara, 64, of Philadelphia.

Seven other people were injured and Ferrara’s wife, Antoinette, suffered chest pains. All eight remained hospitalized Thursday in conditions ranging from stable to critical.

The spree ended when John Laufer III, 24, a college student from Middletown Township, wrested the gun from Ms. Seegrist, police said.

Ms. Seegrist has been a patient at a dozen hospitals from psychiatric treatment in the last decade, beginning when she was a student at Springfield High School, said her mother, Ruth Seegrist.

Early Thursday, Delaware County Judge Howard Reed signed an order for Ms. Seegrist to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

She was under a suicide watch today at Delaware County Prison, where she was being held without bail on murder charges, warden Kenneth Matty said. Prison guards checking on Ms. Seegrist every 15 minutes said she was being cooperative, although she was withdrawn and mumbling constantly, Matty said.

″She keeps rambling on about a black box, but that’s about it,″ he said.

The most seriously injured was Dr. Ernest E. Trout, 67, of Springfield, who was listed in critical condition at Metropolitan Hospital-Springfield Division with wounds to the head, abdomen and buttocks.

Two youngsters, Kareen Wootson, 9, of Chester, and her cousin, Tiffany Wootson, 10, of Minquadale, Del., were injured while trying to protect other children, including the 2-year-old victim, their cousin, a minister said.

″They were trying to help the older women protect the children,″ said the Rev. Jesse H. Walker of Chester United Methodist Church.

Kareen was shot in the right cheek, and Tiffany suffered a bruised lung and a superficial chest wound. Both were listed in stable condition at Metropolitan, along with Ellen Lewis of Wilmington, Del., who was shot in the left hand and right wrist.

An older brother of Recife Cosmen had trouble comprehending the tragedy, Walker said.

″His brother said, ’Why did it happen? He never bothered anybody; he’s just a little baby,‴ the minister recalled.

″We’re all in shock and willing to do anything we can to comfort the families of those who have been injured,″ said Walker.

Another of the wounded, Mary Ann Gervasi, 27, of Ridley Park, was listed in serious but stable condition at Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park after undergoing surgery on two gunshot wounds to the abdomen.

Holly Morton, 17, of Media, was reported in fair condition at Delaware County Memorial Hospital with two wounds to the abdomen, and Ruth Douglas, 50, of Vanderwagen, N.M., was listed in stable condition at Crozer-Chester Medical Center with a wound to the back.

The mall opened as usual Thursday, but shopkeepers reported that business was lighter than normal and uniformed police offers stood watch throughout the mall.

Linda Sheffer, an assistant manager at Herder’s Cutlery store in the mall, said she had to summon her courage to come into work.

″I figured the best way to deal with it was to get back into work and not hide from it,″ she said. ″But it’s going to haunt me for a long time.″

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