Terry Ratzmann Book Review
'Hapless victim' or murderous gunman?
Posted: Aug. 27, 2006
Brookfield - A new book about the Sheraton
hotel church massacre that left eight people dead is
raising eyebrows because of its sympathetic
treatment of gunman Terry Ratzmann.
Author Thomas Geiger, a church member who says he
was temporarily barred from the congregation because
of the book, describes Ratzmann as a "hapless
victim" of Satanic influences.
"Terry Ratzmann is not the one who bears the
primary guilt," Geiger writes in his book,
"Martyrdom in Milwaukee," available at Harry W.
Schwartz Bookshops throughout the area.
Ratzmann, 44, of New Berlin shot and killed seven
people during a church service at the Sheraton in
Brookfield on March 12, 2005, before turning the gun
Police have never established a motive, although
they found that Ratzmann had a history of emotional
outbursts and had recently felt conflicted with the
Living Church of God, of which he was a member.
While other church members also say Ratzmann did
not appear to be in full control of himself during
the shooting rampage, many believe that depicting
the gunman as a victim is going too far.
"We must not forget that we all have free will -
and help when needed," said Lillian Miller, whose
son, Gerald Miller, 44, was among those killed.
Also slain were the church pastor, Randy Gregory,
51; his son, James Gregory, 16; Bart Oliver, 15, of
Waukesha; Gloria Critari, 55, of Cudahy; Richard
Reeves, 58, of Cudahy; and Harold Diekmeier, 74, of
The congregation's new pastor, Darrell Lovelady,
said he believes that Satan and the powers of evil
are real, but he, too, questioned depicting Ratzmann
as a victim.
"The victims were the ones who suffered loss
because of what Terry did," he said.
Geiger, who was friends with Ratzmann for many
years through the church, devotes the first chapter
of his book to episodes in which he believes
Ratzmann behaved as a "genius," a "hero" and a
"caring and sensitive man who could harm no one when
in his natural state."
In an interview, Geiger said he was not trying to
absolve Ratzmann of responsibility for the
shootings, which left four other church members with
"I don't want to whitewash the man," Geiger said.
"He does bear a measure of guilt."
But considering that Ratzmann was known as a
friendly man with no history of significant
violence, Geiger said, "I find it difficult to
ascribe all of that to him humanly."
As the congregation gathered March 12, 2005, for
its regular Saturday service, Ratzmann fired 22
shots from the back of the hotel meeting room with a
9mm handgun, stopping once to reload.
In "Martyrdom in Milwaukee," Geiger dedicates the
178-page work to Ratzmann's victims and writes
extensively about them, especially about the
youngest victim, Bart Oliver, Geiger's nephew.
Bart's mother, Loni Oliver, who is Geiger's
sister, said some parishioners are unhappy about the
book, partly because they suspect Geiger is trying
to profit from the tragedy. The paperback sells for
$14 to $17.
The book is not widely discussed among Living
Church of God members, who continue meeting every
Saturday at a new location in Waukesha.
"There are people who do have a problem with it,"
Oliver said, "so you just don't talk about it."
Mary McCarthy, vice president of Harry W.
Schwartz stores, said her company's Brookfield store
has sold about 20 copies in the past month, which
she described as above average.
"Obviously, people are interested," she said. "It
was a terrible event - we all remember it."
From the Aug. 28, 2006 editions of
the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site,
or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.
Back to Painful Truth menu
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2006 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.