10.23.12

Wisconsin Spa Becomes Mass Murder Site as Gunman Kills Three and Himself

Azana Spa was a place where women went to relax and be pampered, then Radcliffe Franklin Haughton fatally shot three other women before killing himself. Lizzie Crocker on how the spa became a site of carnage.

They rushed out in bathrobes and slippers, their blissful oasis near a suburban mall suddenly transformed into a horror scene. 

Radcliffe Franklin Haughton, 45, had just charged into the Azana Spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin, a middle- to-upper-class suburb of Milwaukee, and told everyone to “get down” moments before he began firing, witnesses told NBC.  Three women were killed before the gunman shot himself to death. 

“One woman crawled out of the salon door and over the side of the building before rolling down a hill to the cops,” Jenny Rimshek, 22, told The Daily Beast. Minutes later, Rimshek said, another ran out of the building screaming, her arms covered in blood, and was immediately carried away on a stretcher. 

Like the movie-theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, just three months ago, Sunday’s massacre has left an indelible stain on an establishment rooted in leisure and relaxation. Joe Coan, COO at the neighboring Westmoor Country Club, which shares a parking lot with the spa, said many female club members frequent Azana. “It’s a very popular salon in the area and a beautiful facility,” Coan said. “A local reporter said she had been there earlier this week.” 

Zina Haughton, the apparent target of the shooter, was a 42-year-old cosmetologist at the salon, helping to provide clients with everything from body-firming treatments to pomegranate manicures. Zina Haughton filed a restraining order against her husband on October 8, according to court documents, claiming he had threatened to throw acid in her face and “terrorized my every waking moment.” Radcliffe Haughton had been arrested and charged with domestic violence four days earlier for following his wife to work and slashing her car tires. Zina Haughton was granted a four-year restraining order on Thursday under which her husband was forced to hand over all firearms to the police.

That didn’t stop him from illegally purchasing a semi-automatic rifle one day before the shooting. The horrific crime scene that unfolded at Azana clashed with its website’s description of a “sumptuous refuge from life’s routine.” By Monday afternoon, pictures of swanky leather pedicure benches and marble sinks on the site were replaced with a somber statement calling for the community to “keep the victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers.”  

“I think it will be quite a while before they reopen,” said Nancy Wilks, PR director of the company that does advertising for Azana. Salon owner Tami Gemmer could not be reached for comment Monday, though she is speaking about the shooting at a press conference Tuesday, according to Wilks, who added that damages from a fire Haughton started in the salon, which was extinguished by the building’s sprinkler system, will take additional time and money to repair.  

Then there’s the inevitable impact on the community, not unlike the one Brookfield suffered seven years ago, when a gunman killed seven people and himself at a Sheraton hotel roughly half a mile away from Azana and the Westmoor Country Club. Today, the Sheraton is “up and running,” Coan said. “I’m sure the same will be true of Azana in time.”