By PHILLIP BANTZ
Naples Daily News: May 29, 2007
“I’m strictly against guns. I never wanted them in the house,” said Seckler. “Now I wouldn’t be in the house without a gun.”
Seckler’s stance on guns changed the morning of May 16. He was mowing his lawn when he turned around and saw two 20-year-old men standing behind him. Seckler said one of the men was pointing a gun at his head.
After Seckler, 50, raised his hands to the sky, the two men pushed him past the garage toward the front door of his home in northeast Cape Coral. They held him at gunpoint and said they were getting into his house no matter what.
A struggle ensued at the front door. Seckler refused to let the men inside and they beat him over the head with the pistol and their elbows and fists. One of the men bit Seckler’s back. Seckler’s fiancée, Elizabeth Kachnic, 37, said she heard screaming and the door slam repeatedly.
“I don’t know what happened to me,” said Seckler. “I was so scared. I’m not crazy like that, but I knew I had to do something.”
The gun was pressed against Seckler’s temple. He said he pushed the assailant’s hand down and the gun fell to the ground. Seckler said he screamed for Kachnic to call 911 as he and the two men scrambled for the weapon.
“I got the gun. I just turned around and shot,” said Seckler. “If they did not come here with a gun, they would be alive. It’s their fault.”
He fired every bullet in the clip. One of the men, John Patrick Moore Jr., was hit as he sprinted across Seckler’s driveway. He stumbled to the edge of the street and died.
Police say Moore’s accomplice, Damion Jordan Shearod, fled when they lost control of the gun. Seckler said Shearod was hiding in the garage or the side of his home and appeared after the gunfire ceased and ran to a car parked in the street outside Seckler’s residence.
Police say Moore’s 19-year-old girlfriend, Jazzmyne Carrol-Love, was waiting behind the wheel and the two sped away.
Seckler had just killed a man. He hadn’t held or fired a gun since he was 18 years old and serving in the German Army. Even then, he was only aiming at practice targets.
“I was crying, screaming and hurting,” said Seckler, a large man who became tearful while recounting the shooting. “If they would have gotten in they would have killed us both. Everybody says I did the right thing, but it feels so bad. I killed another person.”
Lives changed forever
Long bands of yellow police tape cordoned off their home and detectives stood in their driveway looking down at a puddle of blood as Seckler and Kachnic packed their essentials and drove away on the evening of the shooting.
They lived in an area hotel for a week. Then they rented a camper and left Lee County for a while. Seckler said he had an emotional breakdown at the RV park and requested a priest. The priest was not available and the police were called, but they could not ease Seckler’s troubled mind.
The couple returned to their Cape Coral home Monday. The house had symbolized a new beginning for the pair, who left the perpetual hustle of New York behind in January and headed for the Sunshine State.
On the afternoon of their return, Seckler slid his new handgun into his pocket and started up the lawn mower. He mowed part of the side yard before the fear took hold. He went back into his home and locked the doors.
“We have to lock ourselves in to feel safe during the day,” said Seckler. “We don’t feel safe going to dinner and coming home at night. It feels like someone’s hiding around the corner.”
A jogger dressed in dark clothing coming down their street in the middle of the afternoon incites panic. Seckler and Kachnic must always be together when at home. If one is swimming in the backyard pool, the other is watching for an attacker lurking in the bushes or around the corner of the house.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever ride my bike around the neighborhood,” Kachnic said. “We came down here to start a new life and it’s just not fair. It will never feel safe again like it used to.”
When a gardener knocked on the couple’s front door as they spoke about the shooting, Kachnic jumped off the couch and asked Seckler if she should get the gun before answering. They were both crying.
Seckler and Kachnic both have upcoming appointments with therapists. Seckler also has an appointment with a neurologist. Ever since he was pistol-whipped on the temple, his vision has been blurry and he can’t read magazines or street signs.
While Seckler works to obtain a concealed-weapon permit, Kachnic will be getting a gun of her own, she said.
“It was meant for us both to be dead and they would have robbed us,” said Kachnic. “You can’t imagine the fear. We just don’t know what to do.”
Shearod and Carrol-Love were arrested and remain in the Lee County Jail; both have been charged with one count each of homicide and robbery with a firearm.
In 2005, a Lee County jury found Shearod guilty of murdering an 18-year-old Lehigh Acres man, but Judge James R. Thompson overturned the conviction, citing a lack of evidence.
The State Attorney’s Office is awaiting a judge’s decision on an appeal in the case. The jury’s verdict will be upheld if the appeal is granted and Shearod will be sentenced.
“The judge who let him go should be in jail,” said Kachnic. “Who knows how many people he’s shot and how many times he’s gotten away with it. I hope they (Carrol-Love and Shearod) stay in jail forever.”
Meanwhile, Seckler and Kachnic are desperately trying to piece their lives back together. They have considered selling their home and starting a new life somewhere else. They have also considered turning their residence into a fortress of sorts, installing surveillance cameras and a tall privacy fence around the property. Seckler is leaning towards the latter option.
“I’m not going to give in,” he said. “We’re going to stay here and make it safer. I know it will never feel like it felt when we moved in, but we’ve got to make the best of it.”
Inland Press Association: First Place, human interest category