Columbia murder and suicide questions answered
When Toni Hannon went to her ex-husband’s home Monday on High Ridge Drive to pick up Christmas decorations and other items she won in their divorce, he met her with two loaded handguns, according to police.
The ex-husband, John Hannon, used one of the guns to shoot Toni Hannon and then himself, police said.
Columbia Police Chief Joe Edwards said his officers had been to 901 High Ridge Drive before on domestic-violence calls, but there had never been one like this.
When officers arrived sometime after 4:45 p.m. on Monday, they found the couple, the parents of three grown children, lying in the street suffering from gunshot wounds. John Hannon, 57, was dead from a shot to the head, apparently self-inflicted. Toni Hannon, 53, was clinging to life. She died late Monday evening at a St. Louis hospital.
“Every murder case that we have had in Columbia during my time has been related to domestic violence,” Edwards said.
The shooting came at what domestic violence experts say is the most dangerous time of the relationship: when a woman decides to leave. St. Clair County Associate Judge Julia Gomric signed a divorce order ending the Hannons’ marriage on July 29, just two days before what would have been their 32nd wedding anniversary.
Three weeks before the trial, John Hannon’s attorney withdrew as his lawyer.
The trial happened without him or his lawyer present.
In that divorce, Toni Hannon, an O’Fallon-based real estate agent, was awarded $1,741 a month in maintenance from John Hannon, a Union Pacific railroad engineer.
“John’s obligation to pay and Toni’s right to receive maintenance required herein shall terminate upon the first to occur of the following events: John’s death, Toni’s death, Toni’s remarriage…” the divorce order stated.
The other condition was if Toni Hannon cohabited in a conjugal basis, or upon further order of the court.
Toni Hannon also received the couple’s Branson condo. John Hannon received a second house in Columbia. Gomric ordered that John Hannon could keep the house on High Ridge but he had to pay Toni Hannon $50,500 when he refinanced. John Hannon was given nine cars, a boat, two motorcycles and a trailer. Toni Hannon received interest under John Hannon’s pension.
John had an investment account worth $150,656 and Toni’s had a balance of $270,622.
“To equalize the marital accounts, Toni would have to pay John $60,028; however no payment or equalization is necessary given the distribution of proceeds from the parties’ real estate at 901 High Ridge,” Gomric ordered.
John Hannon was also ordered to pay $2,500 for Toni Hannon’s lawyer.
“Said award is appropriate given John’s conduct during litigation,” Gomric ordered.
John Hannon failed to give an accounting of how he spent marital assets while the divorce was pending, the order stated. He also failed to follow a court order regarding sale of the couple’s real estate.
On Aug. 13, John Hannon filed a motion asking the judgment be set aside.
“(I) was not represented at trial,” Hannon wrote, adding that he hired a Waterloo attorney who told him the trial was not going to happen because the lawyer would be out of town. John Hannon stated he did not attend the trial because he did not believe that it was going to occur.
There had been no ruling on John Hannon’s motion when Toni Hannon arrived to pick up her belongings on Monday afternoon. She was there to pick up various household items she won in the divorce, such as Precious Moments figurines, and a yard swing given to her as a Mother’s Day present. Instead, she was met with an argument and handgun, police said.
There was no sign of violence at the house on High Ridge Drive on Tuesday morning.
A young man pulled into the driveway as reporters and a photographer stood on the sideway. He politely declined to comment.
“It’s so sad,” said Deb Frazier, the CEO of the Realtors Association of Southwestern Illinois. Frazier and Toni Hannon served on the Rebuilding Together Southwest Illinois Board, a charity that partners with volunteers, individuals and corporate sponsors to provide home repair and renovation services free to needy homeowners.
Toni Hannon served as treasurer for the group, but Frazier said she was very handy, painting and helping with renovation projects.
“She did whatever needed to be done,” Frazier said. “This is a real loss for our real estate community.”
Frazier said she saw Toni Hannon on Thursday and Friday.
“She seemed to be handling the divorce well,” Frazier said. “She was very happy to be on her own.”
Frazier didn’t know about domestic violence in the Hannon marriage.
“I was surprised to hear that,” she said. “Sad and surprised.”
Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2570. Follow her on Twitter: @bhundsdorfer. Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com or 618-239-2625. Follow him on Twitter: @gapawlaczyk.