Six weeks after losing her son, Melissa Wheeler-Reisinger’s emotions see-saw between pain and anger, though nothing can overshadow the feeling of loss.
“He was my baby. He was my best friend,” she said of her son, 22-year-old Eric Wheeler, as the tears poured down her cheeks.
Wheeler, a 2011 Northeastern High School graduate and multi-sport athlete, died Dec. 30 after being shot in the stomach while at a home on Barker Drive in Springfield. He had spent the night there with his friend and Navistar co-worker, 29-year-old Dustin Olwin. Witnesses told Springfield police the two had been drinking, and a female 911 caller said they were “screwing around” with a 9mm gun when it went off. Wheeler died an hour later at Springfield Regional Medical Center.
Despite what witnesses said, Wheeler-Reisinger said her son wasn’t interested in guns, and if someone was “screwing around, it’s who pulled the trigger.”
In the weeks since the shooting, Wheeler’s family found comfort in those who knew him. His co-workers at Navistar made bracelets in his honor, and the Northeastern football team framed his No. 52 jersey and presented it to his stepfather, power-lifting and assistant track coach Tim Reisinger, while singing the fight song in the front lawn.
“It’s been amazing,” Reisinger said. “So many people really loved him.”
Receiving the news that Olwin was indicted this week by a Clark County grand jury in connection with his son’s death was bittersweet, he said, because he knows what happened has changed the two families forever.
“It’s a hurt like I can’t describe,” Reisinger said, tears welling in his eyes. “It’s bad enough our (family) is devastated, but his is devastated for the rest of his life, too.”
And while Wheeler-Reisinger said she believes the shooting was an accident, she said if Olwin spends his life in prison, “it still doesn’t bring my baby back.”
“When you’re out drinking and driving, and you kill somebody, you go to jail, don’t you?” she said. “What’s any different?”
Olwin faces counts of reckless homicide, negligent homicide, involuntary manslaughter and having weapons while intoxicated. He’s scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Clark County Common Pleas Court.