Community responds to Friday’s murder-suicide

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A murder-suicide in Monkey Junction Friday afternoon left two men and an unborn child dead and sent a woman to the hospital, where she is in critical condition.

We learned this weekend that three children were also inside the vehicle when the shooter opened fire.

Investigators say it all happened after a business deal went bad.

There have already been seven homicides this year in Wilmington and New Hanover County, and the community is speaking out about the violence in their hometown.

Today several churches and community members came together to remember victims of Friday afternoon’s shooting all in the hopes to help bring peace back to Wilmington.

“This was an intentional, premeditated, targeted and deliberate act,” District Attorney Ben David said during a Saturday afternoon news conference.

What happened Friday afternoon left a community in mourning.

Richard Nielsen’s shooting took the lives of Russell Mitchell and an unborn child. The baby’s mother Jessica Modolo is clinging to life after being shot in the head and abdomen. Nielsen also shot and killed himself.

Several churches gathered with family and friends at the scene of the crime to pray for peace not only for the victims and their families, but for all of Wilmington.

“We do need to do something in our community to try and promote peace,” Pastor Philip Chryst said.

Chryst says he was so moved by the tragedy he called his congregation to action.

“I felt like at the very least we could just gather here after a time of worship,” Chryst said.

A simple gesture they hope will start a big change.

“We just gathered together and we took turns praying,” church member Adelaide Brooks said. “And we took turns praying that the community would come together and that and that the community would try to put forth love and not fear. We want to stop the fear in this city.”

David says he understands why there is some fear.

“You’re talking about a murder in a public place in broad daylight, and so I know this shocks the community,” he said.

But David and New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon say that this incident was targeted and isolated. Investigators said Thursday Modolo filed a report with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office claiming Nielsen took thousands of dollars worth of lawn equipment. Investigators said they advised Nielsen to return the items or face charges, but they say he had already sold them. Investigators say Nielsen told relatives he was not going to jail at age 65 and gave away all his possessions, including a debit card and PIN. They say around 3 p.m. Friday he legally bought a gun. Less than an hour later he shot and killed Mitchell at the attendant’s booth at the Murphy USA gas station on Carolina Beach Road, then shot Modolo before shooting and killing himself.

With Nielsen committing suicide it is unlikely investigators will ever have a true motive.

“We’re chasing a ghost to know exactly why Mr. Nielsen acted the way he did,” David said.

At last check Modolo was still listed in critical condition at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

Sunday WWAY got a voicemail from a young woman who said she was Modolo’s niece and Mitchell’s daughter. She said she wanted the community to know that while many people ran from the scene of the shooting, there were several people who ran toward it and tried to her aunt. She said the actions of the people she called heroes may have helped save Modolo’s life.

Categories: New Hanover

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