Neighbors and coworkers mourn loss of bright light in York County murder-suicide

YORK – You get the feeling the neighbors in the 400 block of Hill Street really look up and like each other, in part because their little 10-house stretch is cut off by an office building to the south, a repair garage automotive to the east, and another supplier of industrial pipes, valves and other equipment across the street to the west.

But the owners and inhabitants of this stretch of tidy little houses know each other well.

And that’s what makes it so hard for them to deal with the loss of one of their own and one of their favorites – Erin Walker, a high school teacher in the Central York School District – following an argument. with one of their new neighbors who seemed to go from annoyance to death out of nowhere this weekend.

Walker, according to police reports, was shot by her neighbor, Daniel Berry, on Saturday night in the back of their neighboring homes. Berry then turned his gun on himself. When Walker, 36, died at WellSpan York Hospital on Sunday, the case became a murder-suicide.

It had already been a nightmare for Walker’s neighbors.

Berry, 59, moved in in November 2021 with her elderly mother.

Jessica Lynn, who lived next door to Walker and a stone’s throw from Berry, described him as “emotionless” and a hard guy to get to know.

it wasn’t for lack of trying, she said.

Lynn reminisced before Christmas, taking a basket of food to the Berrys as a welcome gesture from the neighborhood. It contained a Christmas card with Lynn’s name and phone number and an invitation to call or contact them if they ever needed anything.

“There was really no emotion there,” Lynn said. “He showed no emotion. Didn’t seem to like it at all. Just… I don’t know. A man of small words.

With Walker, a single mother to a three-year-old daughter, Lynn said, it was a different story. “We were all there for each other… I mean when they say it takes a village, it really does and not just with the kids but, you know, being there for each other in general, for us adults.

For example, Lynn’s life became quite complex when she, as a mother of six, underwent major back surgery.

Walker made it less.

“Afterwards, I was unable to drive for a few weeks and when my husband was working, she helped me take the kids with me to follow-up doctor appointments,” Lynn said. “She was just a beautiful person, inside and out.”

But as big-hearted as Erin Walker was with her daughter, students and neighbors, there was apparent tension with Berry, who lived next door at 401.

“He was never nice to her,” said a second neighbor, Holly Johnson, who also described herself as a friend of Walker.

Johnson said she believes Saturday’s dispute may have stemmed from Berry building or expanding a new garage along the driveway that runs along the back of their Hill Street properties.

“He installed the garage. He wasn’t supposed to. He knocked down a (utility) line. She needed the line fixed. He was crazy,” Johnson said. “It happened this week.”

It was unclear whether the police had been called before Saturday; Spring Garden Township police did not respond to a PennLive request for information on whether officers had been called to intervene in the disputes between Berry and Walker, though Chief George Swartz had scheduled a press conference on the case Tuesday afternoon.

But no one in this small block where residents like to think they support each other ever expected the argument to break out in a spasm of gunfire.

“I don’t think she (Walker) feels comfortable around him sometimes. But I don’t think she ever feared for her life or worried that he would hurt her,” Johnson said. “And if we would have known that (the potential was there), you know, we would have made sure that she wouldn’t have been around him or that the police could have done something.”

According to Lynn, who saw footage of at least part of the incident on a doorbell camera, Berry confronted Walker behind their properties, where he began a verbal altercation.

Lynn, who was among those who discovered the scene of the shooting, was reluctant to go into detail from there out of respect for Walker’s family, but said she was first alerted on her phone of a problem by doorbell cameras in her home. Lynn said she rushed home and arrived on the scene, and her husband called the police.

The murder-suicide took place around 6:10 p.m. in the 400 block of Hill Street in Spring Garden Township, police said. When officers arrived, they said they found Walker lying on the ground outside his home. Berry was found dead on his nearby property, according to the York County Coroner’s Office.

Someone left a floral tribute on the hood of Central York High School teacher Erin Walker’s car on Monday. High school parking passes dangled from the rearview mirror.

It was harder to get a Monday reading on Berry.

Pennsylvania court records showed a history of drunk driving arrests dating back to the 1980s, but no further contact with the law.

George Margetas, an attorney who defended Berry after his last DUI arrest, in York in 2020, actually struggled to remember his client during a phone interview with PennLive on Monday.

His files gave little more.

Berry, Margetas said, successfully completed a drug treatment program last summer, which allowed him to serve a 10-day home sentence in 2021, under electronic monitoring, followed by six months of probation including three months of 24-hour work. alcohol monitoring measured by an anklet.

Nor did he note anything in his records that would prevent Berry from owning a gun.

“It’s not like this guy is a troublemaker,” Margetas said. “And you never think a client who gets a DUI is going to turn around and kill somebody.

On Monday, as neighbors were still trying to figure out what had happened in their neighborhood — the sudden and violent death of a good friend, the placement of her daughter, and the placement of Berry’s mother for an assessment of her capacity to take care of herself – Walker’s students and colleagues in Central York were touched by the news.

Central York Superintendent Peter Aiken released the following statement after Walker’s identity was confirmed by authorities on Monday afternoon:

“It is with immense sadness that I must share with you that Miss Erin Walker, a social studies teacher and student counselor at Central York High School and a member of the Central York faculty for 13 years, passed away on Sunday 22 May 2022. We are deeply saddened by the loss and our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends at this very difficult time….

“Miss Walker touched the lives of hundreds of students during her years of service to Central York,” Aiken continued. “We feel lucky for the time we spent with her. She was a wonderful teacher and an exceptional person, and we are very saddened by her loss.

Lynn, Walker’s neighbor, knows what Aiken meant.

“The love she had for her students was just amazing,” Lynn said. “She was very involved in athletics, practice, post-prom, graduation and coming home. Like, she went above and beyond for her children.

But it wasn’t just school calendar events that Walker, a York County native who graduated from Northeastern High School before enrolling at Shippensburg University, made her presence felt.

A group dedicated to tackling drug overdoses in York County called “Not One More” remembered Walker’s concern for Central students after the overdose death of a senior there in 2016.

“She made it a point to approach each student as they left the funeral home,” the poster wrote. “She cried for them and with them. She was so concerned about their pain and wanted to be sure they were okay with leaving the funeral. She asked a million questions, how can she help, what can she do. She was a beautiful person inside and out.

The only thing that topped Walker’s level of dedication to students, Lynn and Johnson agreed on Monday, was his more recent devotion to his daughter.

“She was a fabulous mum to her little girl, Charlea, and that’s all she ever wanted to be, she was a mum. And she was an amazing mum,” said Johnson, who recalls having been in contact with Walker from the moment she moved in.

“He was a great person and his life was too short.”