As machines whirred in the noisy Kraft Foods plant in Northeast Philadelphia, amid the sweet smell of baked goods, Yvonne Hiller methodically hunted down co-workers with whom she apparently had quarreled and gunned them down, authorities say.
Hiller contended that she suffered from years of "chemical abuse" and that her co-workers had sprayed her with chemicals and deer urine, according to her statement to police, read in court at her preliminary hearing yesterday.
The "mental roller coaster" of abuse led her to kill co-workers LaTonya Brown, 36, and Tanya Wilson, 47, and to fire at another co-worker, Bryant Dalton, 39, wounding him, according to her statement.
Municipal Judge David Shuter held Hiller, 43, of Crescentville, for trial on all charges, including murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and related offenses in the Sept. 9 workplace shooting that shocked the city.
"I told them I was tired of the spraying," Hiller said she told Dalton and Brown earlier that day. They said they didn't know what she was talking about, Hiller said.
"I told them, 'You think this is a prank, but you don't know what it's doing to my body.' "
In her statement, she said she had summoned police to her house a "lot of times, all for the smell" and had sought counseling.
Later that workday, Hiller said she was called into her supervisor's office and was escorted out of the building, at Roosevelt Boulevard and Byberry Road.
"I took it as I was being fired," she said. Authorities have said that she was suspended that night.
After she got to her car, where she had her licensed .357 Magnum, "I kept on thinking about the 15 years I was there and how it was taken away from me," she said in her statement, read by Homicide Detective Dominic Mangoni.
She said she grabbed her gun.
Marc Bentley, a Kraft security guard, testified that Hiller pointed the gun at his face.
"She just told me to open up the doors," Bentley said. An unarmed Bentley said he "hit the ground" in his security booth, hit the switch to open the door, then called 9-1-1 on his cell phone.
Inside the building, Hiller fired a shot at one person, but missed, according to her statement. She then went into a break room, where she saw four people, including Brown, Wilson and Dalton. She told one woman to get out and then fired at the three others, killing Brown and Wilson, and wounding Dalton.
She said she then fired a shot at her plant manager and then noticed a "skinny white guy," a mechanic, following her, and fired a shot at him. Both shots missed.
Police Officer Michael Murphy testified that he was one of the officers who responded to the shooting about 9 that night. He recalled seeing Kraft workers rushing out of the building crying. In a hallway, he heard a gunshot, and a bullet whizzed above his left shoulder, then hit a wall.
Sitting at the defense table yesterday, Hiller, wearing a black Muslim headscarf, dabbed tears from her eyes with a tissue as her statement was read, but did not show any emotion during Bentley's or Murphy's testimonies.
Wendy Ramos, one of Hiller's two public defenders, argued that Hiller had said in her statement that she had not fired at police.
Prosecutor Gail Fairman, however, said that Hiller admitted firing seven shots. Hiller mentioned firing at six people in her statement. The seventh target, not mentioned because of the "stigma" in shooting at police, was the officer, Fairman argued.
Hiller said in her statement that she had been suspended twice before at Kraft - once in 2002, and again in August.
"I hope they never let her out," Dorothy Brown, Brown's grandmother, said of Hiller after the hearing. "She broke my family apart."
Stephen Devine, of Kenneth R. Schuster & Associates, said he and other attorneys were looking into the possibility of filing civil lawsuits, on behalf of Brown's and Wilson's families.