March 16, 2007 -- The last week has been marred by disturbing cases in Indiana, California and Michigan in which police believe that bitterness over divorce filings prompted tragic murders. Unfortunately, the following incidents add to a list of frightening incidents involving divorce over the last couple of months, from the case of the Irreconcilable Differences Bandit to the story of a heated Kentucky divorce in which a man burned down the house that he and his wife were fighting over.
On March 5th, an Indiana man crashed the single-engine Cessna airplane that he was piloting into the house of his ex-mother-in-law, killing himself and his eight-year-old daughter who was a passenger in the craft. Police believe that the plane crash killing 47-year-old Eric Johnson and his 8-year-old daughter Emily was caused by his bitterness over his Indiana divorce from his wife of 12-years, Beth, in November.
An Associated Press story detailed that Eric and Beth Johnson had allegedly gone through a very difficult divorce. The story said that Beth Johnson filed a restraining order from Eric last July. While police did not disclose the reasons for the restraining order, Beth's mother, Vivian Pace, alleged in the story that Eric did not want the Indiana divorce and threatened her daughter last summer with a gun. A neighbor reported that police cars were outside the couple's home for a few weeks in the summer.
Eric and Beth Johnson shared custody of Emily and alternated weekends. When Emily did not show up to the school on the day of the accident, Beth filed a missing persons report. Vivian Pace said that Beth contacted Eric via his cell phone minutes before the crash, and alleged that Eric told her daughter that Beth would not get their child. Pace also claimed that Beth could hear Emily pleading for her in the background.
Indiana police have said that they are investigating the accident as a homicide and suicide. Indiana State Police 1st Sergeant Dave Bursten said that Eric Johnson's flight patterns prior to the accident seemed to reveal that he intentionally crashed the plane into Pace's house. The AP story detailed that Eric Johnson obtained his pilot license the same month that his Indiana divorce became final. Vivian Pace was not hurt during the plane crash which destroyed her home.
An Oakland woman was gunned down by her husband in front of more than 100 parishioners outside a gospel church prior to an 8 a.m. service on Sunday, March 11th. Witnesses say that 42-year-old Matthew McCall approached his soon-to-be-ex wife Tanya en route to entering the church. After the couple briefly argued, witnesses say Mathew McCall pulled out a gun and shot Tanya. After she stumbled to the ground, they say Matthew shot her several more times "execution style." Matthew McCall turned himself into police later that night and was arrested on suspicion of murder.
Tanya McCall's father, Willis Hill, said in a San Francisco Chronicle story that the couple was in the midst of a very bitter Oakland divorce. Hill claimed that Matthew McCall was upset that his wife was going to give him three of their six jointly-owned homes and not pay him spousal support following their California divorce. Hill detailed an alleged phone call in which McCall told him to get his daughter to do what he wants. When Hill allegedly told Matthew that Tanya was being fair, he said that his daughter's husband began to make threats about her welfare. Tanya McCall filed for a restraining order in February, which she received three days before being killed. Police said that the restraining order did Tanya no good as Matthew surprised her outside the church and quickly shot her before she could call police.
Hill said that the couple had been together since the early eighties and claimed that Tanya was very supportive of her "very cruel" husband, even after he was convicted of manslaughter in 1985. Hill added in the story that the couple had separated twice before but Tanya would not divorce because of her religious convictions. After separating for a third time, Tanya filed for divorce in November. The story said that Tanya had purchased and managed all six of the properties in dispute. Police added that they found documentation in Matthew McCall's home which indicated that he planned to confront and kill his wife at the scene of the crime, the Acts Full Gospel Church in East Oakland.
On the day that Tanya McCall received her restraining order in California, a Michigan woman was killed by her ex-husband in front of the home that she now shared with her fiancée. A Detroit Free Press story detailed that Patricia Anne Brimhall was gunned down by her ex-husband Jon as she entered her Harper Woods home around 11 p.m. on Thursday, March 8th. Police say that Jon Brimhall hit his ex-wife with two or three gunshots before killing himself later that night at the Howell home the couple used to live in together.
After neighbors heard the gunshots and called police, Patricia Brimhall was rushed to Detroit's St. John Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. Police went to Jon Brimhall's home at around 4 a.m. and found him dead. Family members said that Jon was extremely upset with the couple's recent Michigan divorce, which was finalized in December. The story said there were no police reports of domestic violence involving the couple.