Less than two months after Ronald Taylor’s racially-motivated killing spree, Richard Scott Baumhammers, a reclusive, non-practicing immigration attorney who developed a deep hatred of non-Western immigrants and became an avowed white supremacist, carried out a hate-motivated killing spree across the South Hills. Over a two-hour period on the afternoon of April 28, 2000, he killed five people, injured one, and deliberately spared white people he encountered in his deadly path.
His Mt. Lebanon neighbor, Anita Horvitz Gordon, an Orthodox Jew who lived at 788 Elm Spring Rd., was killed first. Baumhammers then used a Molotov cocktail in an effort to burn down her house, drove a mile to Beth El Synagogue, where she worshipped, and defaced the exterior with a swastika and gunshots.
Continuing, Baumhammers drove to Scott Towne Center, where he shot and killed Anil Thakur at an Indian grocery. Sandip Patel was seriously injured by gunfire at the same grocery. He then drove to Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Carnegie, which he damaged with gunfire. At Ya-Fei Chinese Restaurant at Robinson Towne Center, Baumhammers killed Ji-Ye (Jerry) Sun and Thao Pham. He then drove to C.S. Kim Karate Studio at Center Stage Shopping Center, where he killed Garry Lee.
At each stop, Baumhammers walked calmly from his car into the business to select and shoot his victims. Lee was with a white man when he was killed; the white man, George Lester Thomas II, was deliberately spared.
Baumhammers was arrested without incident as he drove away from the scene of the final murder. He was found to be in possession of the murder weapon, spent casings, Molotov cocktails, and spray paint. Subsequent investigation found evidence that Baumhammers, who had recently traveled extensively throughout Europe, viewed himself as the leader of a far-right movement.
Baumhammers, the son of two prominent dentists, grew up in affluent Mt. Lebanon.
The initial determination of the court was that Baumhammers was mentally incompetent to stand trail. After several months of treatment, he was found competent on September 15, 2000.
At trial in 2001, he did not dispute his role in the killings; rather, he claimed mental disease. Witnesses testified that Baumhammers had told them that he committed the killings and that his motivations were racial. He was found guilty of all five murders on May 9, 2001.
In a case that the presiding judge characterized as “more grotesque, vicious and frightening than any case over which I have presided or expect to,” Baumhammers was formally sentenced to death plus 112 to 225 years in prison on September 6, 2001.
His direct appeal was rejected when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed all of his varied claims (Commonwealth v. Baumhammers, 599 Pa. 1, 2008). Richard Baumhammers remains in prison under a sentence of death.