By ED RUNYAN
Six hours after Newton Falls police first learned that three people had been shot to death in the East River Gardens neighborhood, it became clear that five people had died in a day-long family tragedy.
At about 6:15 p.m. Friday, Police Chief John Kuivila revealed that the three shooting deaths on Trumbull Court, a single shooting death at nearby 604 A Newton Drive and a self-inflicted gunshot death in the Newton Township Cemetery were all related.
“The same person involved in the shooting on Trumbull Court is the same person involved in this one, we’re assuming at this point,” Kuivila said, nodding behind him to a home on Newton Drive.
Kuivila said the man, Rob Brazzon, 53, of 604 A Newton Drive, is believed to have killed all four people, then killed himself in the cemetery at about 4 p.m. as police closed in.
Police, who were aided by a surveillance video taken in the neighborhood of a fleeing white Dodge Stratus, initially believed they were looking for two suspects and interviewed a second man. It’s not clear yet whether a second man was involved, Kuivila said.
Trumbull County Sheriff Tom Altiere said he believes four related homicides is the largest total in recent county history, spanning at least 40 years. There was only one other homicide in Trumbull County this year — the April 16 shooting death of a burglar by Niles police.
Mayor Lyle Waddell said East River Gardens has always been known as “the projects,” but never had a negative connotation when he was growing up there, along with several of the other mayors that came before him, such as Pat Layshock.
But the South Side neighborhood, which has about 300 homes and about 800 residents, has seen better days and “needs some improvement,” Waddell said.
The two homes where the shootings took place Friday are only several hundred yards from each other.
Lisa Brazzon of Newton Falls said the man police are describing as the shooter is her father, who she referred to as Theodore Brazzon.
Lisa Brazzon is the niece of Rikki Cogley, who was found dead in his home at 72 Trumbull Court, along with his wife, Kathy Cogley, and a son of Kathy Cogley, Everett Greathouse, 14. Police said late Friday that Rikki Cogley was 42, and his wife, Kathy Cogley, was 39.
Kuivila said Friday afternoon he didn’t know yet what the motive was for any of the killings.
The Cogley’s 5-year-old son, also named Rikki, escaped from the home unharmed and went next door to the home of his aunt, Lisa Brazzon’s mother, Tina Brazzon.
“He said, ‘Daddy’s dead, Daddy’s dead,’” Tina Brazzon told reporters several hours later. Another son and a grown daughter of Kathy Cogley joined other relatives later in a nearby yard.
Lisa Brazzon told reporters she was the person who discovered her father’s girlfriend dead at about 4 p.m. on Newton Drive. Police later identified her as Tracey Engler, 38.
Lisa Brazzon said she didn’t see any gunshot wounds or blood and figured it was suicide.
Later, when Kuivila said Engler’s death was from a gunshot, Lisa Brazzon became emotional. Someone mentioned at about that time that her father was also missing.
“I was freaked out about my uncle Rik, but I didn’t think I was freaked out that much. I didn’t see any blood. Oh my God. Where’s my dad?”
One of the three shooting victims on Trumbull Court called police at a few minutes after noon Friday to report the attack, Kuivila said. The chief didn’t identify which of the three made the call.
None of the bodies were removed from the home until about 3 p.m., about three hours after police first arrived.
As numerous officers from Newton Falls and the Trumbull County Homicide Task Force gathered evidence, other officers held sheets to block the view as personnel put the bodies in ambulances.
Police were alerted that a man named Rob Brazzon might be a person of interest in the case, and at about 4 p.m. they found him and the white Stratus in the back of the cemetery.
A witness at the cemetery said police surrounded Rob Brazzon before a single gunshot was heard. Brazzon was quickly transported to the hospital but died later.
Police were still at the cemetery when they learned of Engler’s body at the 604A Newton Drive residence. Cruisers quickly left the cemetery to proceed to that homicide scene in East River Gardens.
Trumbull County court records indicate that Rob Brazzon and Tina Brazzon were divorced in 1998. Lisa Brazzon said she is the daughter of Tina Brazzon and that her father lived at 604A Newton Drive, Rob Brazzon’s address.
Because the two crime scenes were so close together, crime-scene tape seemed to be everywhere in the several block area of the housing development.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Newton Falls police at 330-872-5757.