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'We need help in here!' Gut-wrenching 911 calls released in Brookeville, Md. triple murder

ABC7

Montgomery County authorities have released five 911 calls from the day an enraged gunman opened fire in his neighbor’s home last spring.

“My wife is dead!” Richard Olson can be heard screaming to 911 moments after all three victims were shot and left to die on his kitchen floor.

“Are you with her right now?” the call taker asked.

“Yes, she’s dead!”

It was the afternoon of May 7, 2018. Richard and Mary Olson were hosting their friends from South Dakota, Dan and Joan Murphy. Contractor Craig Shotwell and his business partner, Mike Garcia, were also at the Olson residence building a backyard deck.

The Olson house is situated on a cul-de-sac along Brown Farm Way, with two other homes. The subdivision – which is located approximately 10 minutes north of Olney – consists of oversized lots and large residences.

Around 3 p.m. that sunny afternoon, a woman sprinted across the cul-de-sac to the Olson home and begged for shelter. She explained that her husband, Christopher Snyder, 41, had been holding her hostage for days, owned a cache of firearms and was prepared to kill her.

“My husband has a gun and is trying to kill me,” Snyder’s wife can be heard telling a 911 operator. “He is chasing me.”

(ABC7 News has edited out a small portion of one of the 911 tapes because of its sensitive nature.)

“What type of weapon is it?” the operator asked.

“Umm, he got he got all kinds of guns. He got rifle. He got pistol.”

The Olsons, Murphys, Shotwell and Garcia quickly devised a plan to hide Snyder’s wife – who ABC7 is not identifying – in the Olson’s unfinished basement. Shotwell then dialed 911.

“I’m a general contractor. I’m building a deck for these folks and a lady from next door came running over pretty upset, she was crying,” Shotwell calmly stated during a nearly six-minute phone call with police. “She said her husband is trying to kill her. I told her just to go in the basement of the house that we’re working on, which is where she is now. She says he has a lot of guns. He’s a gun collector.”

Shotwell stayed on the line, continuing to provide new information to 911. At one point, he relayed a message from Mary Olson who could be heard telling the group that Snyder “knows the police.”

“The only thing she just said to me is that he works for the police, so calling the police isn’t going to do any good, and that makes absolutely no sense to me.”

RELATED: Montgomery County triple murder suspect held wife for days, often trained law enforcement

Unaware of Snyder’s experience with guns, history of rage and willingness to do harm, Shotwell ended the 911 call with the understanding that police were being dispatched and would arrive shortly.

“Alright, we’ll have the police out there,” the 911 operator stated. “If you get any more information, please call us back immediately – if we get any idea of what kind of weapon it would be or if he shows up or anything like that, okay?”

In the minutes thereafter, Snyder drove across the cul-de-sac in a “police-like vehicle” and approached Shotwell and Garcia as the carpenters stood guard in the Olson’s driveway. The 41-year-old was reportedly wearing a bulletproof vest, plus carrying an assault rifle and handgun.

Amidst the commotion, Shotwell told Garcia to head down Brown Farm Way to direct responding officers to the Olson home. By making that off-the-cuff suggestion, Shotwell likely spared his work partner’s life.

Meanwhile, Snyder forced his way into the Olson home through an open garage door, and demanded to know where his wife was. Mary Olson, Dan Murphy and Shotwell refused to divulge that information and instead tried to calm Snyder down.

One floor below, Joan Murphy and Snyder’s wife shook with panic sensing the severity of the situation. After hearing approximately 35 gunshots fire in rapid succession, the two women exited the Olson home through a walkout basement door and ran in opposite directions.

Joan Murphy, however, later returned to the Olson house, walked upstairs and into the kitchen where she found her husband, Mary Olson and Shotwell bleeding to death on the floor. The sight was horrific.

“Do you believe they are beyond help?” a 911 operator asked.

“I can’t get any response from my husband,” Joan Murphy stated, barely holding it together. “Mary is for sure dead, I mean everything is blasted away from her body. It’s horrible.”

Mary Olson’s husband, Richard, happened to be pulling into the driveway as Snyder ran out the front door and back toward his own home. Richard Olson’s confusion turned to grief upon crossing the threshold.

“I just talked with my wife 10 minutes ago on the phone, I was at the store and I was coming home from work,” Richard Olson told the 911 operator. “We had some friends from South Dakota that just got here today, and I saw my neighbor running out of my front door with an assault rifle.”

For the next 16 minutes, Richard Olson and Joan Murphy passed the telephone back and forth, begging for police to come rescue them. Remember, Shotwell had called 911 at least six minutes before Snyder ever stepped foot on the Olson’s property. Even so, there was still not one officer in sight.

“Where are they?”

“Please hurry! Please hurry!”

“Isn’t anyone available to come in with us?”

“They’re in that area. They’re just waiting for the rest of the officers,” a 911 operator stated.

“No I don’t see them anywhere. I’m going back in the bathroom,” Joan Murphy responded.

In reality, officers were worried that Snyder – who was now held up in his home – would open fire on them too. In frustration and despair, Richard Olson ultimately exited his house, walked into the open, unguarded street and demanded police rescue them.

“I do not consider I was rescued by the police at all,” Joan Murphy confessed to ABC7, now nine months later. “They told me to run behind the house next door. I was left there and finally had to call 911 to get help. I had to then run across the front yard to the police when they called for me to come to them! I felt like a sitting duck.”

Upon locating Joan Murphy, Richard Olson, Mike Garcia and Snyder’s wife all alive, police turned their attention to Snyder’s home. Dozens of officers, including SWAT and top brass, spent the next seven hours negotiating with the ex-military member. Then around 11 p.m. that night, law enforcement opted to breach the front door. Snyder, however, used a gun to commit suicide before officers could reach him.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit:

In November, the families of all three victims filed a joint civil lawsuit against Snyder’s estate seeking millions of dollars in damages. The initial 30-page filing – brought forth in Montgomery County Circuit Court – accuses Snyder of battery, assault, negligence, false imprisonment, loss of consortium, and most notably, wrongful death.

“The deaths of Craig Shotwell, Mary Ann Olson, and Danny Lee Murphy were the result of Snyder’s intentional and/or negligent acts,” attorneys at Baltimore-based Semmes, Bowen & Semmes wrote. “Each of the three defendants lived long enough after being shot to witness Snyder shoot each of the decedents.”

The civil suit further notes that based on undisclosed information, Snyder “may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol or was otherwise mentally compromised.”

A five-day jury trial is scheduled for mid-September 2019.

Nine Months Later:

How does one find closure in the wake of such tragedy? The family of Craig Shotwell is organizing a celebration of life in Big Pine Key, Florida, for this June. There it plans to spread the carpenter’s ashes in the “paradise” he first vacationed in as a youngster. In addition to themed t-shirts, family members have expressed interest in renting two pontoon boats for a sunset cruise in Shotwell’s honor.

“I miss him every day,” said older brother Bill Shotwell, who owns a furniture restoration company in Sterling, Virginia. “I often look out my window and see the fence he built for me.”

Bill Shotwell recently started to attend grief counseling, and shared that a number of family members believe Shotwell’s spirit is still very much present on earth.

“One of my siblings often sees lights in the kitchen flickering on and off. Sometimes the gas stove will turn on, on its own,” Bill Shotwell said.

More than 1,200 miles away in Brandon, South Dakota, Dan Murphy’s wife, Joan, and his 34-year-old son, Matthew, continue to grieve but find comfort in Christianity.

“I have a very deep faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord,” Joan Murphy shared during a recent interview on Skype. “There is a reason for all of this.”

In fact, Joan Murphy is actively using her husband’s life story as a tool to draw people to Christ. For one, she converted Snyder’s wife from Buddhism to Christianity.

“God took what was meant for evil and used it for good. Over 800 people heard the Gospel of Christ between [Mary and Dan’s] funerals,” Joan Murphy wrote in her 2018 Christmas message, which she sent to loved ones. “I have stayed in touch with the shooter’s wife. During our many hours of visiting she has asked Christ to be her savior.”

Dan Murphy was a retired educator. He taught English at Brandon Valley Middle School from 1969 until 2005. Colleagues recently purchased a tree and had it planted outside of Dan’s former classroom. The local newspaper covered the dedication ceremony.

“Dan loved the fall colors and this [tree] turns red,” Joan Murphy said. “The leaves become like brown, smooth leather and stay on until spring.”

Dan Murphy also loved Walt Disney World. In fact, Dan and Joan had visited the theme park each December for 37 years straight. It just so happened the couple booked their 2018 trip only a few days before the shooting. Joan Murphy contemplated canceling the reservations, but her son convinced her to carry on with the tradition.

“It was certainly bittersweet, but I’m glad I still went. Dan would have loved the new Toy Story Land. He was looking forward to that.”

Joan Murphy recalls her husband’s dry sense of humor and gentle personality, but she most prefers to remember him as an individual who put others first, even in his final moments. And so it seemed fitting to have John 15:13 etched in the retired teacher’s gravestone.

“It says, ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,’” Joan Murphy said, her voice cracking as tears filled her eyes.

Richard Olson continues to live in the same home along Brown Farm Way where the shooting took place. He did not return a request for an interview.

Snyder’s widow declined comment for this story but expressed sincere sorrow for the loss of life. She now owns and operates a martial arts gym in New Bern, North Carolina.

The Public’s Right To Know:

ABC7 obtained the five 911 calls following an eight-month legal dispute with the Montgomery County Police Department. However, MCPD continues to withhold other public records pertaining to the now closed criminal case, despite repeated requests from both ABC7 and attorneys representing the victims’ families in the pending civil lawsuit. Those written appeals have cited the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA).

Documents filed in court by Semmes, Bowen & Semmes state the law firm paid Montgomery County $480 in June to produce copies of 911 calls. Despite cashing the check, Montgomery County did not produce the requested audio files. Semmes, Bowen & Semmes later submitted a subpoena, which was not fruitful either until only recently.

“Though courts have discretion to limit discovery, the Maryland Rules do not provide the Montgomery County Public Safety Headquarters with the unilateral right to ignore and refuse to comply with the Subpoena without filing any objections or response thereto,” a Dec. 31 court filing states. “All of the items sought by the Subpoena are unquestionably relevant to this action and, as such, production should be compelled.”

ABC7 will continue to pursue other public documents in the Snyder case including, but not limited to, a list of items confiscated from Snyder’s property and photos taken within his home.

To listen to nearly 30 minutes of 911 calls, click on the SoundCloud files above. Be advised, much of the content is graphic in nature.

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