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Family: Shooter struggled with mental health issues, used drugs

Published March 20. 2014 05:00PM

There was a sharp contrast between the characters of accused Eldred Township shooter Garry Sherwood Flyte and his victims, Steven Powell and his father, Jeffery Place, according to family and neighbors.

Flyte on Wednesday evening used his great-grandfather's shotgun to kill his neighbors, Place and Powell, and their dog.

"He was always crazy, but it's been worse since he's on drugs," said Flyte's daughter-in-law, Christine Flyte.

She and her husband Ray, who is Garry Flyte's son, live with their four children close to Garry Flyte and to the Place family.

Place, she said, was the sort of person "who would do anything for you. He even plowed our driveway."

Her family and the Place family were close, sharing holidays and getting together for Christmas and New Year's, she said.

For Garry Flyte, life was tightening a noose. He struggled with mental health issues, Christine Flyte said, and was about to lose his home, which was in foreclosure. He has been using methamphetamine.

"He had cameras set up all around the house, and he said people were out to kill him," Christine said. "He's someone who has needed help for a long time."

She said she had called police several times concerning her father-in-law. About two months ago, when Flyte was walking up a side road with a shotgun, she again called authorities.

"The police, they came and picked him up. Then they brought him back to the house, unloaded the gun, gave it back to him and told him to stay put," she said.

Christine, who hasn't spoken with Garry Flyte in years, said, "It was something big, leading up to something big. And it did."

Christine Flyte and her family share a driveway and well with Garry Flyte. On Wednesday afternoon, just hours before Flyte grabbed a shotgun and killed Place, Powell and the family's German shepherd, he turned off the water.

Christine threatened to call police, and he turned it back on. When she left for work at 2 p.m. Flyte was standing by the driveway.

"If looks could kill," she said.

On Wednesday, Garry Flyte had climbed a ladder to his roof. Family members and neighbors saw him up there, looking as though he was "scoping things out."

Ray Flyte, too upset to speak publicly, just wants to apologize to the Place family for his father's actions.

Christine and Ray Flyte's daughter Melanie, 18, felt anguish over the shootings.

"I don't care about him," she said of Garry Flyte. "I'm just so sorry for the Place family."

Christine said that Garry Flyte's wife, Patricia, ran over to Powell to try to help him as he ran bleeding from his home. Patricia Flyte is staying with relatives.

"As bad as he was, he loved his grandchildren. I don't think he would have hurt them," Christine said.

Neighbors had similar perceptions of Flyte and the Place family.

R.J. Cramer said he had met Jeffery Place a few times.

"He was a really good guy, someone you wouldn't imagine getting mixed up with someone like Flyte. I was really surprised. It's a shame for his (Place's) son. I met him once; he seemed to be a nice kid," he said.

Local business owner Rachel Weidman said Flyte had come into her store, and she never feared him. But about a year ago, he came in for cigarettes and said he wasn't the same person. There was definitely something different about him. She feels sad for his victims and their family.

"Drugs around here are awful. Unfortunately, we've had a lot of stuff like this happen in our area. It's not about the guns, it's about the drugs it makes you do wacky things," she said.

Township Supervisor Sharon Solt knew the families by name.

"My heart goes out to both families," she said. "They now have to live with this for the rest of their lives. I wish the government would put more time and effort into dealing with drugs and mental health issues than all the time they put into gun control."

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