By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
A 51-year-old Goshen man apparently shot and killed a 48-year-old Goshen woman and then killed himself in the 100 block of North Fifth Street early Monday morning.
Goshen police said John Eric Haitsma shot and killed ex-girlfriend Millicent Morros and then himself around 7:47 a.m. Police said that the shooting took place after a brief discussion between the two individuals.
Morros was a paralegal at Yoder, Ainley, Ulmer & Buckingham law office in downtown Goshen.
Haitsma owned and operated Haitsma Lawn Care and also worked at Liberty Tax Service. He is a former Goshen police officer.
According to Goshen police, a report of a possible shooting came in at approximately 7:47 a.m. Monday. Upon responding to the scene, Goshen police found two motionless people lying on the ground in the parking lot on the east side of North Fifth Street directly across from the First Quality Cleaners & Laundry business.
Police immediately had the Lincoln Avenue/Fifth Street intersection blocked off with police vehicles, and yellow police tape was used to cordon off nearly the entire block. Numerous investigators, as well as the coroner, could be seen canvasing the street and nearby parking lots for any signs of evidence.
Further investigation and witness statements at the scene confirmed that the two subjects, later identified as Haitsma and Morros, both of Goshen, were known to one another, having previously been in a relationship. Haitsma resigned from the Goshen Police Department in 1998 to operate his own lawn care business after eight years with the department.
Morros was originally from Niles, Mich.
The case remains under investigation.
Bonnie Sutherland, an employee of The Goshen News, said she had just arrived to work a little before 8 a.m. when she heard the gunshots ring out along Fifth Street.
“I was coming in the back door at between five and 10 minutes until 8 a.m., and I heard ‘bang, bang, bang’, three shots,” Sutherland said. “It sounded like it was coming from the corner over there at Fifth and Lincoln, so I thought, ‘OK, I’m heading inside!’ because I’d never heard anything like that. But that’s what first came to my mind, that it was gunshots, or somebody shooting off fireworks.
“It was pretty quiet, and there wasn’t a lot of traffic at that time, and apparently after that all heck broke loose. But I wasn’t going to go over and check it out. I went the other way.”
Denise Bontrager, manager of the First Quality Cleaners & Laundry, said she was in the laundromat with just one customer when they heard the shots early Monday morning.
“We heard the sound, but we weren’t even thinking about a gunshot, so we didn’t go to see what it was,” Bontrager said. “We thought it might have been a car backfiring or something like that. You just don’t expect to hear something like that, especially here. And at 8 a.m. on a Monday, it’s just very strange. It’s not what you expect. So it’s definitely not a good way to start the day.”
Billie Wogomon, an Elkhart resident standing outside of the Elkhart Township Trustee’s Office at the corner of Lincoln and Fifth, said she arrived at the office just as police began to cordon off the area. A past resident of Goshen, Wogomon said she never thought she’d live to see the day when there would be shootings in downtown Goshen.
“It’s creepy,” Wogomon said of the shooting. “I never thought I’d ever see something like this in Goshen. And it’s really sad, especially if it’s a murder/suicide. It’s just really sad.”
Life’s loss felt
The Haitsma’ family issued a statement to Millicent’s family: “We give our grievances and condolences to the Morros’ family. Our hearts go out to the family.”
Monday afternoon, the Yoder, Ainley, Ulmer & Buckingham law firm issued a statement about Morros:
“We were saddened today by the tragic death of Millicent (Morros), a much-beloved member. Millicent started working with the firm as an administrative assistant in July 2010. She had recently been promoted to estate paralegal. Millicent was just a few weeks away from obtaining her degree in the Goshen College Business Management program. She was also a volunteer with Model School second-grade Reading Camp.
“Millicent’s good-natured manner was an asset to the firm. She was a valued employee and friend, and will be deeply missed by all of her colleagues.”
Goshen College President James E. Brenneman also commented about Morros’ death in information sent out to GC students and employees Monday:
“It is with great sadness that I inform you of the tragic death this morning of Millicent M. Morros, 48, who was due to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership through our adult education program,” Brenneman stated. “...This is a tremendous loss for Millicent’s family and friends, and we invite your prayers for them at this difficult time. We also know that among those who are grieving today are those of you, students and faculty, who studied beside Millicent, and our prayers also are with you. She will be missed.”
According to GC staff, Morros graduated from Niles High School in 1982, worked locally and also attended Lake Michigan College. She earned an associate degree from Southwestern Michigan College and had been enrolled in GC’s adult degree program since fall 2011, where she had excelled and was named to the Fall 2012 Dean’s List.
Morros’ family in Niles, Mich., declined to comment Monday afternoon.
Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman said the shooting was an unfortunate situation “and I don’t know what could have been done to prevent it.”
“It’s a tragic incident that could have happened anywhere,” the mayor said. “My heart goes out to the families involved.”
In an unfortunate coincidence, the Morros’ family experienced a similar incident with Valorie Morros,
Millicent’s older sister, who was shot and killed in 1990 at the age of 26 along with two others.
At the time, according to the South Bend Tribune archives, it was reported there were indications the three victims may have been part of a lovers’ triangle.
Thirty-two-year-old Ronald Schalliol was killed along with Valorie in the kitchen of a residence at 2119 Spansail in Niles Township.
According to the newspaper article, a tip then led police to an apartment on North Fifth Street, where 27-year-old Jay Scott Wilson shot himself in the head as officers tried to gain entry.
Goshen News staffers Sherry Van Arsdall and Scott Weisser contributed to this report.