Survivors of Aiken Phelon shooting reflect 15 years later

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Sept. 14, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- "It's one of the few days in my life that I can remember every detail about,” said Pamela Morey, a survivor of the Phelon shootings, almost 15 years later.

"You know, people say, 'I understand how you feel.' They don't understand,” she said.

Fifteen years ago, Pam Morey was face to face with death.

"He turned around and he came out of the office and came to me and put the gun right between my eyes,” she told News 12.

The gunman was Hastings Wise, and the date was Sept. 15, 1997. After being fired from the R.E. Phelon Company, a manufacturer of small engines in Aiken, he returned to kill.

"I immediately started praying out loud begging God to not let him take me, to let me stay with my kids,” Morey said.

She says her guardian angel, in the form of another co-worker, risked his life to distract Wise. He’d come back into the building to save lives.

He possibly saved Morey’s life. She escaped, but others weren't so lucky. He injured three and killed four, including a father figure to Morey, Charles Griffeth. David Moore, Leonard Filyaw and Sheryl Wood died, too.

"There were spent shell casings all over the floor and empty magazines from where the suspect had been reloading his weapon,” recounted Aaron Dowdy with the Aiken Department of Public Safety.

Dowdy is a sergeant with the department now, but 15 years ago, he was just a rookie. In fact, when the incident occurred, he had only been a solo officer for about a month. He was pumping gas into a fire truck when he got the call.

With other officers, Dowdy entered the building to hopefully stop a killer.

"We didn't know exactly where he was. We were pretty sure he was still on scene, but we didn't know where he was,” Dowdy said.

Wise was ultimately caught, prosecuted and in 2005, put to death by lethal injection in Columbia.

Now, 15 years later, Pam still has a birthday card from her father-like boss Charles Griffeth, but she still has nightmares, too. She says each one is a different scenario with a different man chasing her with a different gun.

However, the fear is always the same.

"I mean, I still have friends that stills struggle with it daily. Will we ever forget it? No. Have we all forgiven him? No. But the only way that I could move on with life and not live in fear or, you know, hate and let what happened consume me, I had to forgive him,” said Morey of the killer.

Fifteen years later, she just asks for more prayers, forever and always. Morey says recent events like the shooting in Aurora, Colo., seem to reopen her wounds. She says she feels the pain those individuals experience.

However, she does say that she’s seen two major accomplishments over the past 15 years.

The first was finding a husband. Jerry Morey worked at Phelon, too. He says he was in a business trip in Puerto Rico when the shooting happened. When he found out about the shooting, he returned immediately to find that three of his workers were dead. Jerry speculates that he was on Wise’s kill list. To this day, he says he feels guilt but relief, too. While he won’t speculate whether or not he’d be alive today if he were at the plant 15 years ago, Morey believes that he wouldn’t have survived.

That’s why the couple’s second big achievement is the birth of their son, Alexander. Nowadays, Alexander practices karate and is a student at Aiken Middle School.

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