Katherine Bache and her boyfriend Jonathan Reed were up late talking after a hectic first few weeks of their senior years at Ohio State. It was just after 2 a.m. when they heard the crash of furniture and a scream from the apartment below that Bache said sounded like a woman trying to escape someone — her boyfriend.
“It wasn’t arguing. It wasn’t screw you or anything like that,” Bache said. “It was screaming.”
The two contemplated what to do next: do they call a nonemergency line, the apartment after-hours number or 911? After all, they could be hearing things or it could be none of their business.
They made the first call to the after-hours number for the Taylor House apartment complex. The woman on the other line directed them to call the nonemergency number about the disturbance. But that didn’t sit right with Bache and Reed.
They said they couldn’t sit around and wait. The couple went downstairs directly to the disturbance: Apartment 149. Heather Campbell’s apartment.
It was then, right outside the apartment, that they say they heard three gunshots. One after the other, consecutively.
“Then it went completely silent. The silence was profound after that,” said Bache, who then called 911.
No one knew at the time, except for maybe Bache and Reed, that Campbell had been shot and killed by her boyfriend Kyle Lafferty.
It wasn’t until 24 hours later, when Campbell’s best friend and fellow resident at Taylor House came in through the unlocked apartment door to find Campbell and Lafferty lying on the ground next to each other, dead, that police entered the room.
Police say Lafferty turned the gun on himself after taking Campbell’s life. The investigation is still ongoing as a homicide. But no one yet exactly knows when Lafferty killed himself. The medic on the scene pronounced the couple dead at 3:16 a.m. Sept. 17, more than 24 hours after Bache first called police to report the gunshots she heard at 2:34 a.m. Sept. 16.
You could tell up until that point the officers were not taking it seriously. The older officer never really looked us in the eye. He looked above me sort of. I just felt like I was never really being listened to. — Jonathan Reed
“I knew at that moment he had shot her,” Bache said of the initial phone call. “You realize how ill-equipped you are as a human being for an emergency like that. There’s nothing that prepares you for when someone has a weapon. Especially when no one else is around.”
Bache and Reed went out to the parking lot immediately after hearing the shots. Both Bache and Reed are in motorized wheelchairs due to severe physical impairments. The noise produced from their wheelchairs added to their fear after hearing the gunshots as they tried to get away from the door and get outside to call the police.
They both have short statures and osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder characterized by bone fragility and low bone mass that is also known as brittle bone disease.
Reed said because of the condition they are both at risk to great injury if a small amount of force were to be exerted onto them. Bache can walk short distances, but Reed relies fully on his wheelchair.
After Bache made their way to the front parking lot, they called 911 and were met by two officers shortly after.
Two Columbus Division of Police officers showed up in separate vehicles to meet Bache and Reed in the parking lot. Bache said she and Reed were trembling from fear as they tried to explain the situation to officers.
“I was panicked,” Bache said. “My whole body was shaking.”
Bache said one officer circled the building while the other walked up to them. The couple led the officers into the apartment complex, but Bache said she couldn’t go near apartment 149 again.
“You could tell up until that point the officers were not taking it seriously,” Reed said. “The older officer never really looked us in the eye. He looked above me sort of. I just felt like I was never really being listened to.”
Denise Alex-Bouzounis, Columbus Police’s information officer, said Columbus Police take every call they receive seriously. She said the nature of Bache’s call was unusual, however.
“Usually when we get a call of multiple shots fired we usually get multiple calls,” she said. “It was unique in that regard.”
Bache and Reed waited in Reed’s apartment while the officers investigated the situation. Bache went into Reed’s bedroom to pray for the woman she suspected to be dead.
“I’m praying like I’ve never prayed in my life saying the Rosary and they come back and bang on the door,” she said.
Bache said the officers told her they couldn’t go in because nobody answered the door. But Blache said she still begged with the officers to do more.
All I kept thinking was her being alone on the other side of the door. I never felt so helpless in my life … I didn’t even know her name at the time but I knew she was in great danger.— Katherine Bache
“[Campbell’s] not safe,” Bache said she pleaded to the officers repeatedly.
With no other witnesses or phone calls coming in to the police, the officers said they could not go into the apartment without a search warrant.
“At this point they start being somewhat condescending,” Reed said. “They said ‘Oh you probably heard the TV,’” Bache said.
Bache said she tried to convince them otherwise, but to no avail.
“The older officer turns to the younger officer and says ‘Anyone else call in?’ almost to prove a point that it was just us who heard something,” Bache said. “And he said ‘Nope’ and they almost shrug at that point.”
The officers left after taking Bache’s statement and were on their way to respond to a burglary call that had just come in, Reed said.
But something still didn’t sit right with Bache, thinking that Campbell had been shot on the other side of the door the police said they legally could not open.
“All I kept thinking was her being alone on the other side of the door,” Bache said. “I never felt so helpless in my life … I didn’t even know her name at the time but I knew she was in great danger.”
For 24 hours, Bache and Reed were left questioning everything, wondering if they were crazy, wondering what had happened to the woman they had seen only a few times at the apartment complex. The woman who Bache said had a beautiful smile, and who was always pleasant in passing.
“You feel like you’re crazy,” Bache said. “You’re the only ones that knew something happened and no one believes you.”
After receiving a 911 call the next morning from Campbell’s best friend who found her body, the police woke Bache and Reed around 3:00 a.m., confirming the fears they had known all along.
“One of the officers actually said to me, ‘It’s a really gory scene down there,’” Bache said.
The only thing more troubling to Bache and Reed than the murder of Campbell was how it was handled by Columbus Police.
“At this point it’s not policy so the officers didn’t do anything wrong,” Alex-Bouzounis said. “Whether they could do anything more, we are looking into that.”
“There is still a huge potential that he was alive and in there when the police came and knocked,” Reed said. “They could have at least done something more. To not turn the handle, to dismiss everything entirely, that should go against what the police stand for.”
Many questions remain unanswered as to what exactly happened the night of Sept. 16, making it difficult for the two people who seem to be the closest thing to witnesses of Campbell’s murder to find closure — they did what they knew was right, but it still wasn’t enough.