#8216;You Never Expect It#8217;

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 8, 2008

PORTSMOUTH — The people of Portsmouth are reeling after a man went on a rampage and stabbed two women Thursday morning, including his wife of 34 years in a classroom in front of her students.

The man then returned home, fired two shots at law enforcement officers and then barricaded himself in his house. After three hours, Mike Layne, 56, a retired assistant director at the city’s water distribution plant, was found dead in his garage of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Word of the event spread quickly by word of mouth and media reports on television and the Internet.

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“You don’t expect something like this in your town,” said Police Chief Charles Horner.

“You train for it, but you don’t expect it.”

According to police, Layne stabbed Stephanie Loop, 22, on 11th Street sometime before 9 a.m. He then went to Notre Dame Elementary school where he stabbed Christi Layne in her classroom around 9 a.m. The couple was in the process of getting a divorce.

Neither police nor school officials would say if he committed the act in front of students.

But students said they saw him stab her before they hid in a coatroom. There were 17 students in the classroom and 167 in the school.

Layne fled the scene just minutes before officers arrived and the school was locked down. Police originally said Christi Layne had been shot, but later indicated there was a shooting but it was unclear if she was hit.

All Scioto County schools and the Southern Ohio Medical Center, where the two women were originally transported, were locked down because officials were unsure of Layne’s whereabouts.

Police were concerned because he left a gun at the 11th Street stabbing and at Notre Dame Elementary. Police had concern that he had an arsenal of weapons in his home.

Christi Layne had filed for divorce on Jan. 25 and they lived in separate homes. Horner said they did not know what the relationship between Loop and Mike Layne was and that it was being investigated.

Christi Layne was taken to Cabell Hospital in Huntington, W.Va., where she underwent surgery. Hospital personnel would not release her condition.

Loop was at Grant Medical Center in Columbus and staff there also would not release information about her condition.

Both women were in critical but stable condition, Horner said earlier in the day.

After stabbing his wife, Mike Layne went back to his home on Argonne Street. While police officers dealt with the two stabbings, detectives from the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office went to the home where Mike Layne fired two shots at them. They heard a third shot and called for assistance.

Gary Webb, the manager for Webb’s Used Cars, was in his office a block away from the Layne house. He was doing paperwork when he heard the shots.

“I heard two shots and then about 15 seconds later heard another shot,” he said. “I didn’t even realize the cops were out there.”

He didn’t realize what the situation was until his mother called to tell him to lock the doors.

Nadine Raby was going to work as a caretaker for one of the people in the neighborhood. She had heard friends talk about the stabbings but wasn’t aware that Mike Layne lived a block away from her patient’s home.

She too heard the shots.

“I was in the house five or 10 minutes when I heard the gun go off,” she said.

She said she wasn’t surprised that the situation happened, but it was still devastating.

“I can’t believe a school shooting happened here,” she said. “Usually it is other places.”

Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison was on the scene.

“It’s one of the things that you see on the news in other places,” he said. “But then you find yourself in the middle of it in our community. You plan for it, but you never expect it.”

By 11 a.m., the small, blue home was surrounded by special response teams from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, as well as officers from the Portsmouth Police Department, the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office and the New Boston Police Department. The fire department and ambulances were on standby. A state patrol helicopter patrolled the air above the scene.

The stabbing attracted local media and regional media from as far away as Columbus and Charleston, W.Va., and turned Webb’s car lot into a media center as camera crews used his back lot to shoot footage of the Layne house.

Police tried to talk to Mike Layne via cell phone and eventually a loud speaker, but got no response. Around 12:45 p.m., officers used a special type of bullet to knock out two security cameras on the property.

Police broke out a window on the house and tossed in a cell phone to get in contact with the suspect.

Just before 2 p.m., officers went into the garage and found Mike Layne dead. They searched the house and found no one else.

Scioto County Coroner Dr. Terry Johnson was called in and the police tape was taken down.

At a later press conference, Johnson said that Mike Layne died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound from a shotgun.

Attorney Rebecca Bennett worked with Christi Layne on a civil protection order. She said she couldn’t speak on anything Christi Layne had told her, only what was in court documents that are public record.

According to Bennett, the petition stated that he had called Christi on Dec. 26 in which he told her to tell their son that he would see him in hell and it would be soon.

“He then called her back and left a voice mail message on her phone that said, ‘What I told you about our son goes for you. It will be sooner than you think. You better enjoy your life.”

The civil protection order was going to be reviewed by a judge next week, but was still in effect until April 1.

Horner said his department had a previous run-in with Mike Layne. Two weeks ago, officers had been called out for a domestic dispute between the couple. He said they didn’t know what triggered the stabbings.

Webb said he hoped the children get over the drama quickly.

“It would have to be traumatic to see that happen,” he said.

Portsmouth Mayor Jim Kalb said he too was concerned about the students.

He said his first reaction to the tragic events was the same as most people.

“This is something you see on TV, you don’t want to believe it could happen in Portsmouth,” he said.

Kalb said he didn’t know Mike Layne because he had retired by the time he became mayor four years ago, but that he went to school with Christi Layne.