With its walls and shelves overflowing with old vinyl records, antique furniture, paintings and posters and decades-old china, Antiques on Broadway doesn’t fit the stereotypical homicide scene.
Yet Monday evening, city police, emergency personnel and the coroner’s office arrived at 1115 Broadway to investigate the bludgeoning death of J. Robert Shimer II, the city’s 30th and final homicide of 2012.
Described by another store vendor as “a good guy and a sweet man,” Shimer – more commonly known as J.R. – was a caring family member and an asset to the store, his friends and family said.
Shimer, 58, was the son of J. Robert and Elaine E. Shimer of Fort Wayne and had two sisters, Jayne Vossen of Anchorage, Alaska, and Nancy Rehling of Syracuse.
Vossen said Shimer was the baby brother and was always fun to be around.
“He didn’t have a lot of friends, but the friends he had were good friends,” Vossen said. “I don’t think he had an enemy in the world.”
Shimer worked several jobs throughout his life, but took a particular interest in art and antiques, she said.
Shimer’s niece, Amy Compton, echoed the memories of her aunt and said her family will be forever changed by the loss of her uncle.
“He was a witty, artistic, man who was also very quiet and reserved,” Compton said in an email.
Compton said when she was younger, Shimer would send birthday cards in elaborately designed envelopes.
“He would take simple white business envelopes and turn them into works of art. Each was different and told a story,” Compton said. “They were always fun to get in the mail and had to surprise the postal workers. He was so talented.”
Compton said Shimer had attended art school and was well-versed and a “brilliant writer” who enjoyed music, art, politics and history.
Lora Goeglein, owner of Antiques on Broadway, remained in shock Wednesday and said she had barely begun to piece together the details about Shimer’s death.
Goeglein said Shimer was a dedicated employee and lived a short distance from the store.
When Goeglein opened the antiques shop in 2003, Shimer was one of her earliest customers, she said.
“He was a very pleasant guy, easy to get along with. He was always congenial and pretty low-key. Things didn’t rile him up too often,” she said. “I couldn’t say a bad thing about him. He was such an easy-going guy.”
Shimer, who also rented a booth at the store, began working part time about five years ago after a bad hip caused him to leave his job as a delivery driver, Goeglein said.
“He’s a customer, he’s a buyer of antiques and a collector himself,” she said.
On the night of his death, Shimer was scheduled to close the shop at 6 p.m., she said.
“One of our dealers came in to pay rent, and seeing no one around, he started looking for an employee,” she said.
The dealer walked through the store and found Shimer lying in a room toward the middle of the store and immediately called police, Goeglein said.
At first, Fort Wayne police thought Shimer had been shot, but an autopsy Tuesday morning showed he died of blunt force trauma to his head, according to the Allen County Coroner’s Office.
At this point, what happened is only speculation, but Goeglein believes the homicide may have begun as a robbery that turned violent.
“Someone came in and he was down the hall, and from how it looks, they hit him in the head several times with a hard object. It was pretty bad,” Goeglein said.
The person then stole Shimer’s wallet and took some coins from the drawer, she said. There wasn’t much cash on hand, she said, so the person probably didn’t get away with much.
Goeglein said Shimer had injuries to his hip and walked with a cane, so he probably wasn’t able to escape someone coming after him or sneaking up behind him.
“That’s our theory at this point. We have no witnesses, no proof,” she said. “It’s just awful.”
The store did have video cameras, but so far, the tapes haven’t given police any leads, Goeglein said.
The store was open for business Wednesday, a decision Goeglein said she made because she felt she owed it to other renters to open the store as usual.
“It’ll be slow, I think, before business picks up again and people begin to forget what happened,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen really. I don’t know if it will be too big of a shock … I’ve thought about ‘do I close the store or do I move to a new location?’ There are too many (options) to decide what to do yet.”