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Video: Victim’s sister: ‘Trying to focus on positive’

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TODAY contributor
updated 8/6/2009 8:18:46 AM ET 2009-08-06T12:18:46

The family of one of three women killed in a Pittsburgh-area fitness center is trying to focus on the many positive things in Heidi Overmier’s life — and leave it to others to sort out the mad ramblings left behind by the sociopath who killed the women and himself.

“We want to focus more on the positive of Heidi and our loss,” Connie Moneck told TODAY’s Lester Holt Thursday from Carnegie, Pa., where her sister had lived with her 15-year-old son, Ian.

“We were just really focusing on Heidi. We weren’t concerned at all about the shooter or how it happened. We were more focused on what happened to Heidi,” Moneck added.

First to arrive
Moneck was the first member of her family to arrive at the LA Fitness Center Tuesday night after news broke that a gunman had walked into a women’s exercise class and opened fire, killing three and wounding nine before killing himself.

Her brother had called after hearing about the shooting on the news, and Moneck said she immediately began to worry that Overmier might be one of the victims because she had just recently joined the dancercise class and was enthusiastic about it.

The gunman, identified as 48-year-old George Sodini, left behind a Web page on which he listed his date of death as Aug. 4, 2009, and complained of not having a girlfriend since 1984, not having a date since May 2008 and not having sex for 19 years.

“Women just don’t like me. There are 30 million desirable women in the US (my estimate) and I cannot find one,” he wrote. The page ended with the words “Death Lives!”

Entries on the page date back nearly a year and detail an earlier attempt to carry out his plan to kill women at the gym. Investigators are unclear about how long the page had been posted on the Internet and whether anyone ever read it.

Focus on Heidi
Holt asked Moneck if the family considered that someone may have read the page and not reported it to authorities.

Video: Witnesses recall deadly gym shooting “That crossed our mind. Our focus hasn’t been on the shooter himself. Perhaps if he had survived, it would be more of an issue,” she said, adding that if Sodini had not killed himself, there would be criminal charges and a trial to deal with.

But no matter what is revealed about Sodini, she said, “We can’t go back and try to figure out why he did this.”

Moneck admitted there was an initial desire to know the identity of the killer. “When it first happened, we said, who did this? We didn’t have a lot of information to tell us.” But now that the Web page is out there, she wasn’t sure if she or any of her family would even look at it.

“I don’t know that any of us have even gone online to look at it,” Moneck told Holt. “We want to put that behind us. We want to focus more on the positive of Heidi and our loss.”

The 46-year-old Overmier lived in Carnegie, outside of Pittsburgh, with her son. Her ex-husband lives in South Carolina and came to Carnegie to be with their son after the shooting.

TODAY
Shooting victim Heidi Overmier was a self-described soccer mom who lived with her son, Ian.
A self-described soccer mom, Moneck had worked since 1998 as the sales manager at Kennywood, a local amusement park. The Associated Press reports that colleagues remembered her Wednesday as a behind-the-scenes orchestrator who helped keep the park operating, from coordinating school trips to organizing special events.

“Heidi’s love of life, friendship, and dedication to excellence in all areas of her life will long be remembered,” the park's general manager, Jerome Gibbs, said in a statement.

Overnight memorial
Overmier grew up in West Mifflin, another Pittsburgh suburb. She was the youngest of five children. She attended Penn State University, according to her profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn.

“She would help anyone in the neighborhood. She was very, very active in her church,” Overmier’s brother, Jim Stapf, told WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh. “We’re going to miss her dearly. Now she’s with her younger brother and her dad. And we’re going to pray now.”

Moneck said that after Overmier’s death, her son Ian started a memorial page on her Facebook site. Overnight, more than 200 friends of the boy and his mother registered their memories and condolences.

TODAY
A Facebook memorial page set up by Heidi Overmier’s son quickly drew hundreds of condolences.
“Ian is doing well. We have a lot of family, a huge family,” Moneck told Holt, adding that the loss really hasn’t completely registered with the boy.

“I think it hasn’t set in yet. We’re all kind of numb. His father came in from out of town last night. I think that’s going to be a comfort to him,” she said.

The Facebook tributes are also a big source of comfort.

“By the time we had gotten home from the incident and what happened the other night, [Ian] had come back and there were just hundreds of Facebook entries in tribute to her,” Moneck said. “It was good to know his friends and her friends were reaching out to comfort him.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.

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