State College

Father, son killed in State College shootings remembered as ‘truly great’

The victims of the shooting in State College on Thursday were Dean Beachy, Steven Beachy and George McCormick.
The victims of the shooting in State College on Thursday were Dean Beachy, Steven Beachy and George McCormick.

A Millersburg, Ohio, father and son who died after a gunman started shooting at a State College bar are being remembered as “truly great” people who were devout Christians and active in the horse auction community in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Dean Beachy, 62, was the first killed in a shooting rampage allegedly perpetrated by Jordan Witmer, a 21-year-old Benner Township man, on Thursday night at P.J. Harrigan’s Bar & Grill. Steven “Stevie” Beachy, 19, who was accompanying his father into town for a horse auction at Penns Valley Livestock in Centre Hall Friday, was shot in the chest and died of his injuries Friday afternoon after being transferred to the trauma center at UPMC Altoona. Witmer went on to shoot his ex-girlfriend Nicole Abrino, 21, who is in stable condition at UPMC Pittsburgh, and, less than an hour later, broke into a house on Tussey Lane, shooting 83-year-old homeowner George McCormick, before turning the gun on himself.

“Dean was so talented and beloved, yet so humble; he never hesitated to help, to give of his time and money, his wisdom and experience,” said friend Dot Morgan, executive director of New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program in Laura, Ohio.

The elder Beachy was a prominent horse auctioneer, traveling to and working for many different venues across the Midwest and East Coast, like the Dixie Draft Horse Sale in Troutman, North Carolina, Mel’s Stable in New Holland, Pennsylvania and Mt. Hope Auction in Mount Hope, Ohio, according to those who knew him.

Raised Amish, Dean joined the Mennonite church as a young man, but remained close with the Amish community in central Ohio, said Morgan. Many knew him for running his own auction business, Dean Beachy and Associates, said his friend and colleague Jerry Haws, general manager of Blooded Horse Sales based in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Haws said he first remembered seeing Dean at a horse sale in Delaware, Ohio, in 1978. Dean had been working horse sales since he was a teen, Morgan said.

“For those that knew him, his ever ready, beloved, rhythmic chant is etched in our memories forever. He could turn it on and off like a switch,” said Morgan. “Sometimes I inadvertently called him while he was in action on the stand. He always answered, even in the middle of the bidding. He never missed a beat! He answered my question, he took the bids, he sold the horse or cow or whatever and never seemed in a hurry to end the conversation. ... Nobody can do that! But Dean could.”

Dean raised his four sons with a love of horses, said Morgan. His sons Bobby and Davey work as bid spotters at Blooded Horse Sales, and Stevie had joined them in buying and selling driving horses as the “Beachy Boys” after graduation.

“Stevie and his brothers were (at the Sugarcreek Livestock Auction) virtually every Friday looking for horses to flip. Stevie was so accommodating to us; he navigated (my granddaughters) through the backside and then during the sale he identified different dealers, commented on their ethics, pointed out specific horses and explained where they would sell better,” Morgan said.

A recent graduate of Hiland High School, Stevie was an avid baseball player, playing as part of a summer baseball team that won Senior League World Series Central Region titles in 2015 and 2017.

Dean was a devout Christian, and raised his boys as such, said Haws. They were members of the Walnut Creek Mennonite Church, according to their obituaries.

“Dean was just a good man,” Haws said. “The boy that was killed, Stevie, when he was playing baseball ... they had a really good ball club, went to the nationals ... (the two) always went out for ice cream after a ball game.”

There were thousands of people at the viewing and visitation on Sunday, Haws said his friends told him.

“They were a good family,” Haws said. “I can’t… I knew (Dean) a long time and uh, I don’t know ... I can’t hardly, I can’t wrap my mind around how senseless this is.”

Dean always had the ability to multi-task, and he had a special way with numbers, Morgan said.

“In the middle of negotiating a deal, Dean could simultaneously answer a child, text a message, acknowledge a friend and never forget to dot the i and cross the t,” said Morgan. “He was infectiously upbeat and positive, making a point to find and express the blessings amid the daily difficulties and challenges. Dean will always be a bright light that graces our memories.”

People in the horse community are upset about what they feel is the senseless nature of Dean and Stevie’s killings, said Haws.

“(Dean) did a lot of things for a lot of people. He bought and sold horses but there’s more to him than that. He was just a good friend, a good man to talk to,” he said.

A GoFundMe was started Saturday by Tricia Shepard to raise funds for the Beachys’ burials. As of Monday, $490 of its $20,000 goal was raised.

A funeral for both father and son is being held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Mt. Hope Event Center in Mount Hope, Ohio.

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Sarah Paez covers Centre County communities, government and town and gown relations for the Centre Daily Times. She studied English and Spanish at Cornell University and grew up outside of Washington, D.C.