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Date of Issue: December 20, 2007

Normand continues recovery, store opens

Stephen Normand stands in for his mom at the Island Mail & More counter. Sue Normand is recovering from a gunshot wound suffered on Dec. 5. A relief campaign has been launched on the Internet at Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
Sue Normand, 63
Mark W. Koenigs, 54

“Taking care of business” proved the motto in the aftershock of the Dec. 5 shootings on Anna Maria Island.

But last week did not bring “business as usual.”

Around the Island, residents and regular visitors expressed outrage over the shooting at Island Mail & More and the intrusion of violent crime into their paradise.

At St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Medical Center, Sue Normand, owner of Island Mail & More, recovered from a gunshot wound suffered when a man walked into her Holmes Beach store and turned a gun on her.

At Mail & More, Normand’s son, Stephen, conducted business - shipping packages and selling stamps in between calls and visits from those wishing his mother the best.

At Holmes Beach Police Department, police continued to prepare the case against the suspect, Mark W. Koenigs. An hour after allegedly shooting Normand, two Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies shot Koenigs as he aimed a gun at them on the beach in Bradenton Beach, according to MCSO.

Koenigs, 54, was transferred from St. Petersburg’s Bayfront Medical Center to the Manatee County jail, where he was held last week on bonds totalling $2.4 million.

The defendant, whose legal address is in Bradenton Beach, faces multiple charges in cases being handled by two law enforcement agencies - HBPD and MCSO.

HBPD is investigating the shooting at Island Mail & More and MCSO is handling the shooting of the suspect in Bradenton Beach.

In the Island Mail & More shooting, Koenigs faces a charge of attempted first-degree murder.

A formal complaint against Koenigs, filed at the Manatee County Courthouse in Bradenton, stated that there was probable cause to believe that the “defendant did shoot the victim with premeditated intent to affect the death of the victim.”

The complaint detailed what Normand, a long-time member of the Holmes Beach Planning Commission, told authorities happened Dec. 5. She arrived to her business in the Anna Maria Island Centre Shops at about 9:45 a.m. and noticed a man sitting on a bench in a blue sweatshirt. She unlocked the store door and allowed a couple waiting to mail a package to enter, then relocked the door, awaiting her normal 10 a.m. opening.

“The defendant,” according to the complaint, “came to the locked door, pulled on it and walked away.”

Normand then unlocked the door.

“The defendant returned, opened the door, took two steps inside, then turned and walked out,” the complaint stated.

The couple left the store and the defendant returned. “He walked up to the counter with a package in his hands,” the complaint stated. “The victim took the package from him and asked if needed any packing material. The defendant said no, he needed stamps. As the victim turned toward the cash register, he shot her once. The victim sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen, which subsequently resulted in the bullet breaking her hip.”

The complaint said that Normand knew the defendant “as he has come to her store to mail certified letters at least a dozen times this year.”

In the MCSO case, Koenigs faces two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. MCSO Sheriff Brad Stuebe said officers stopped Koenigs on the beach, ordered him to show his hands and, when he pointed a gun in the direction of two deputies, they fired. He was wounded in the ankle, leg and groin.

Koenigs also is facing two contempt of court charges apparently unrelated to the incident on the Island.

The defendant, who is scheduled for arraignment Jan. 18, continued to refuse to talk with police last week, said HBPD chief Jay Romine.

“Everybody knows what took place,” Romine said. “Nobody knows why.”

Stephen Normand said he felt like giving up on the “why.”

“It’s imponderable,” he said.

Neighbors of a home Koenigs owns in Bradenton have described him as erratic, negligent and annoying. A relative last week described Koenigs as mentally ill. Normand, from her hospital bed, said last week his speech seemed “not right.”

“It seems pretty clear this person has a long history of mental illness,” Stephen Normand said.

The son reopened the store Dec. 10, five days after the shooting.

“No one knew I was here at first,” he said. “Word started getting around and we had a run on people.”

He and his sister, Lisa Normand, spent the days before with their mother, who was transferred to a rehab facility in Sarasota over the weekend. “We know she was glad to have us with her,” he said.

But Sue Normand, who opened Island Mail & More five years ago, also was concerned about being closed during the peak Christmas season.

“Her business, it’s her baby,” said Stephen Normand, who previously has worked in the store, but also works as a DJ in the Tampa area.

Last week, as he reopened the business, Stephen Normand also launched on the Internet for people to contribute via PayPal to the Sue Normand Relief and Recovery Fund.

On the site, the Normand children described their mom, a former mitigation specialist with the county and real estate agent and broker, as devoted, independent and inspirational.

“Mom finally realized her dream of opening her own business in 2002,” the Web site states. “She has struggled to run the business, mostly by herself, since that time.”

As the sole proprietor and the primary worker at Island Mail & More, Normand did a lot to make ends meet, including going without health insurance.

“This is all going to hit hard,” Stephen Normand said of the medical expenses. “She’s going to be off work for a year. She’s going to have to pay people to be here - though she’ll probably be coming back sooner than anybody tells her she can.”

Last week, Holmes Beach resident and Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore lined up a primary care physician for Normand and began collecting medical equipment for her return home.

“When she comes home, she is going to need continued care,” said Whitmore, who was trying to find someone to donate a lift for Normand’s Holmes Beach residence.

The daily routine seemed reestablished last week in the plaza that’s home to Island Mail & More, but nearby residents and plaza visitors continued to discuss the crime and its impact.

“I just think Sue’s a wonderful person and I’m praying for her to get through this all right,” said Tina Seufer of Bradenton Beach. “And I’m praying for justice. I’d like to know why people think it’s all right for guys to walk around with guns in this state.”

“It can happen anywhere to anyone,” said Bob Worthington as he arrived last Thursday morning to Ace Hardware on East Bay Drive for plumbing tools. “That’s what we say for reassurances, but that’s hardly really reassuring.”

“I know a young woman got murdered here and I just think I’d be more worried if Sue’s attacker was still loose, too,” Walgreens shopper Amy Dillard of Holmes Beach said, referring to the slaying of Carla Ann Beard, 29, of Sarasota, in late November. Beard’s body was found Dec. 1 in Holmes Beach, where police believe she was killed.

Romine, too, expressed relief that Koenigs, who according to an arrest report is self-employed in real estate, was quickly taken into custody.

After Normand was shot, the gunman walked from Island Mail & More and fired his weapon several times as he left the bustling plaza parking lot and headed south.

“It could have been a whole lot worse,” Romine said. “There were an awful lot of people who could have gotten in the line of fire.” That same day a gunman in an Omaha, Neb., mall killed eight people before taking his own life.

Romine had just left a meeting Dec. 5 when he received the emergency call informing him of the shooting.

“I thought I misunderstood,” he said of his own surprise. His department already was investigating the Beard homicide and violent crime is rare on Anna Maria Island.

The chief praised the cooperative effort among law enforcement agencies in the case, including HBPD, the Bradenton Beach Police Department and MCSO.

“Within a matter of minutes, all the agencies came together,” said Romine.

“When it comes to street level, a lot of times we function like one big department,” Romine continued. “And that’s what happened. I’ve never seen a coordinated effort come together that fast.”

In addition to officers, police dogs were employed to locate the suspect, as well as an MCSO helicopter, from which Koenigs was observed on the beach.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger also praised the law enforcement response, as did city commissioners.

Bohnenberger expressed thanks for the professionalism and cooperation and said citizens can be proud.

The mayor also said he was thinking of Normand, who, in the days after the shooting, was the subject of so many inquiries from Islanders that Bayfront staff moved her to a different room and placed her under an alias to allow her to recuperate.

More than a week after the incident, the inquiries and the wishes for a speedy recovery continued, as did a volunteer spirit.

Whitmore volunteered to work in Island Mail & More. “I can help pack packages,” she said.

Lynn Henneman also volunteered time at the store.

“I’ve owned a business of my own in the past and I couldn’t imagine them being closed at the busiest time of the year,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is something I want to do.’ I’m trying to be helpful.”

Stephen Normand said the assistance “is just wonderful.”

And he said his mother “has been so appreciative of all the help and all the kind words, of the sheer numbers of people who have been coming and wanting to say they love her.”