sports journalist





Becky Soper remembers her half-brother, Ronald Maish Jr., and his friend Donald Middleton dining in her home and playing with her children.


Now Middleton is dead, the victim of a gunshot wound to the head last week.


Maish is in jail, held on domestic violence warrants from Florida and is being questioned in the shooting.


And a week after the incident, Soper wonders what transpired between the two that could have led to the fatal shooting.


"Donnie was in my home a lot. He sat down at my table and had dinner with us," she said. "He would come in and he and Ronnie would kick it for a while. We knew Donnie very well."


After coming home from a long day of construction work, Maish and Middleton would oftentimes be covered in mud from head to toe, she said.


Because Soper's son would love to wrestle, Maish and Middleton would have their own Wrestlemania, or they'd tease Soper's 14-year-old daughter.


And on days when they took a break from wrestling or cracking a joke, they'd sit and watch movies.


Although police said they were not looking to arrest Maish, 33, in connection with the shooting, he was arrested on domestic violence warrants issued out of Hillsborough County, Fla.


Maish is being held without bond on the warrants in Wayne County's jail. It could take from a few days to as many as two weeks before he returned to authorities in Florida.


Sgt. Brad Berner of Richmond Police Department said Wednesday that police were still investigating the case and more information about what led to the shooting would be released at a later date.


Initially Maish and Middleton were at a bar that was not far from a home where police found Middleton's body.


Police said Maish admitted to an emergency operator that he shot Middleton. Chief Kris Wolski said the 911 phone call would be released in the future.


"It was very hard to digest at the time," Soper said of the shooting. "At first I did not know who the victim was and when I found out I was like there was no way this could have happened.


"First, because I could never imagine in a million years that my brother would ever shoot somebody, let alone one of his friends. It's still hard to comprehend that this was Ronnie and Donnie."


Soper said Maish moved to the Tampa, Fla., area in 1991 and that he returned to Richmond a few months ago while he and his wife were working through a divorce.


Marie Soper, who is also Maish's sister, said the divorce had taken its toll on her brother.


"That kind of killed him," Marie Soper said of the divorce.


Maish, who is one of seven children, had met Middleton a few months ago and the two became fast friends, Becky Soper said.


Becky Soper said because her family knew Middleton, 28, it's been extremely difficult to comprehend how the event occurred.


"We understand they are hurting," she said of the Middleton family. "They lost a son, father, brother and an uncle. Our hearts go out to their family.


"Right now it's too early to say, but I just don't feel that right now would be a good time to get both families together."


Becky Soper said she did not talk to her brother before he turned himself in but they have spoken "two or three" times since he's been in jail.


The conversations have focused on Maish's well-being.


Marie Soper has also talked with her brother since he's been in jail.


"We cried on the phone together and he's just a mess right now," she said.


"I'm sorry that it happened but also everybody has to understand that's my brother. Ronnie is not a mean or bad person."

Before fatal shooting, men spent time together eating, watching movies

Suspect's sister shares insight into friendship

News  |  Feb. 21, 2008  |  Page 1A



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