Jason Moore glanced at his ex-wife after crashing her high school reunion. “I see Lori and her new boyfriend,” the glib Moore told a pair of former classmates of his former wife, Lori Moore. “No big deal.” Indeed, no one had much reason for alarm. Jason Moore was always in control. And this night at a pizza pub would be no exception. Seconds after speaking, he drew a pistol and squeezed the trigger twice. About 10 feet away, Lori Moore and her boyfriend, Lance Griffel, dropped to the ground, gunshots to their heads. Then Jason Moore jammed the muzzle to his head. At that point, he lost his poise. He pulled the trigger a third time, but flinched, the bullet only grazing his cheek. Whatever his next intent, he never got a chance. A burly biker burst out of nowhere to tackle Moore, at the exact instant an off-duty FBI agent drilled a bullet through Moore’s chest. The roomful of classmates went silent. Days later, it remains hard for Nicole Beard and Keely Absher to talk about Saturday night. “I see Jason’s eyes, just calm,” Beard says. “And I see the eyes of my classmates as the horror flashed through the room.” *** Nicole Beard, Keely Absher and Lori Moore — then known as Lori Shumaker — were three of about 250 graduates in East Peoria Community High School’s Class of 1999. Though they lived a ways apart — Beard near the city limit with Morton, Absher more toward the center of town, and Moore in Creve Coeur — they were inseparable at school. “I’m sure teachers still remember us,” says a chuckling Absher. “We were the Three Musketeers.” Beard recalls getting her license at age 16. The next day, she got up early to borrow her mom’s van, pick up Absher, then drive to Creve Coeur to get Moore — just so they could make the trip together to school. After high school, Absher went to Illinois State University, eventually parlaying a marketing degree into a job outside Chicago. She lives in Oak Forest with her husband, Jim, and their 6-year-old daughter. Beard attended the University of Illinois at Springfield to study communications, then did freelance writing. She lives in East Peoria with her husband, Britt, and their two sons, ages 8 and 2. Moore studied computer science at Bradley University. She later took a job in logistics with Caterpillar Inc. About nine years ago, she married Jason Moore of Lewistown, who was driving a truck for UPS. They made their home in a subdivision a mile outside Bartonville, with son Kaydin, now 9, and daughter Callie, 4. Busy with young families, the trio didn’t get together often. But they’d chat on the phone. Beard and Absher say Lori Moore neither talked much about her husband nor complained about the marriage. And the two friends say they got along fine with Jason Moore.
Beard says, “Jason was the type of guy where everything was always light. He was always joking.” She recalls no signs of trouble: “Jason was not an explosive guy to anyone. I don’t know what Lori’s experiences with him were. You don’t know what happens behind closed doors.” Since Saturday, other acquaintances have told Beard and Absher of another side of Jason Moore, that of an occasional quick temper. Further, Absher recalls a conversation she had with Lori Moore about the time of the divorce filing. After a couple of cocktails, Lori Moore said Jason Moore — who had no criminal history aside from a few traffic tickets — fired a gun inside their home. Lori Moore did not elaborate about the matter to Absher, who does not know if police were called. The Peoria County Sheriff’s Office has no record of such a call. Absher says the gunshot changed Lori Moore’s outlook on the marriage. “For the safety of her kids, she felt she had to get divorced.” Her divorce petition, filed March 14, 2013, mentioned nothing about gunplay. Rather, it cites unspecific “mental cruelty.” The case was settled in two months, with the couple splitting assets. They agreed Lori Moore would be the custodial parent, with Jason Moore granted standard visitation of one weekday each week, plus every other weekend. He would pay $1,000 a month in child support. To friends, Lori Moore seemed emboldened by the split. She moved with the kids to Morton. “I’m going to rock the single-mom thing,” Lori Moore declared. “I’m going to be a great mom.” Jason Moore indicated similar positive thinking. After the divorce, Beard and her husband ran into Jason Moore at a pub in Peoria. Moore seemed affable, to the point they all three had a beer together. “Yeah, we got divorced. It happens,” he told Beard. “But we had two beautiful children together. It’ll be OK.” She adds, “He talked about her in a fond way — respectful of her.” Meanwhile, the three high school friends became even tighter, especially after a high school classmate floated a Facebook suggestion about hosting a 15-year reunion in 2014. In 2009, Beard — vice president for the Class of ’99 — served as chairwoman for the 10-year reunion, which went so well that many attendees didn’t want to wait another decade to get together again. Among the most enthused about the 15-year gathering was Lori Moore, who had attended the last reunion with Jason Moore. Upon seeing the Facebook post, she called Beard: “We need to get the ball rolling!” Classmates picked June 14 because of the coincidence with Father’s Day and Steamboat Days, when many out-of-town classmates headed home. The site would be Fifth Quarter Sports Bar & Pizzeria, 1110 N. Main St., across Illinois Route 116 from the Par-A-Dice Riverboat Casino. The pub offered proximity to hotels and the chance to give back to the old East Peoria community.
In the meantime, Lori Moore started falling in love. *** A few months ago, Lori Moore began trolling a dating site. So did Lance Griffel, 36, who grew up in Carlinville before earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western Illinois University in Macomb. A lifelong bachelor with no children, he worked for Caterpillar as a manufacturing engineer in Decatur before moving to Peoria three years ago. Despite their Caterpillar connection, they’d never met until running into each other online. After they dated a couple of months, Lori Moore wondered if she should invite him on a Memorial Day weekend trip to Key West. Absher was going with her husband, plus several other couples. Lori Moore eventually decided the challenges of taking a trip and meeting her friends might show if their relationship had long-term potential. Beard says, “She was really excited about him.” Before leaving on the trip, she introduced Griffel to her children, a big step for her. And when they headed to Key West, she was bursting with pride over introducing Griffel as “my boyfriend” — even calling him Sir Lancelot. “They were all lovey-dovey,” Absher says. “It was so cute. He treated Lori like a princess.” The easygoing Griffel made fast friends with everyone on the trip. But his eyes seemed riveted on Lori Moore, who was entranced in return. “They were falling in love on that trip,” Absher says. “It was so great to see Lori so happy.” Upon returning to Illinois, Lori Moore indicated she had a bright future with Griffel. In fact, Beard says, they made plans to take a vacation in July to the Bahamas. But there would be one significant social engagement before then: the high school reunion. About 5 p.m. Saturday, Lori Moore and Beard arrived early with several others to set up the event. Absher arrived a little later to assist. About 6 p.m., guests began to arrive, about 50 total. “It was the best atmosphere,” Beard says. Absher agrees: “Everyone was in great spirits.” That changed for Lori Moore about 7 p.m. East Peoria Police Chief Dick Ganschow says Lori Moore and her ex-husband began exchanging texts. Though declining to offer specifics — detectives still are reviewing the texts — Ganschow says Jason Moore expressed displeasure over a perceived lack of time with the kids.
At the reunion, Lori Moore did not share those details with her friends. But about 7:30 p.m., she told them Jason Moore planned to drop in and “ruin my night.”
The friends say they didn’t worry about him, as he’d never gotten out of line in public before. Plus, with so many classmates around, Lori Moore was in good company. As Beard says, “We felt, ‘Let him come. There’s no way we’re going to let him ruin her night.’” About 7:45 p.m., Beard was at a table several feet inside the entrance to the pub. She and another classmate were acting as hostesses, registering guests. Absher sat several feet away at another table, talking with others. About 10 feet behind Beard, Lori Moore leaned against a wall, next to Griffel, chatting. Beard noticed the arrival of Jason Moore, who stopped outside the entrance to talk to a friend, the husband of a woman from the Class of ’99. Jason Moore seemed pleasant. After walking in, Jason Moore paused at the hostess table, smiling at Beard. Kiddingly, she said, “Are you crashing the reunion?” Jason Moore said no; he’d simply noticed the friend outside while passing by. That’s when he looked toward his ex-wife and her boyfriend, making the “no big deal comment.” Beard says Lori Moore and Griffel showed no indication of having spotted Jason Moore. He seemed nonchalant. “He acted like he might turn around and leave,” Beard says. *** Instead, Jason Moore leaned in toward the other reunion hostess, asking, “Is this awkward?” Trying to defuse a possibly difficult situation, Beard blurted, “You know, I can’t believe how much (daughter) Callie looks like you and how much (son) Kaydin looks like Lori.” Someone called Beard’s name, and she turned to one side. Over the other shoulder, she heard a deafening blast. Beard turned to the explosion, thinking someone had set off a firework. Ears ringing, she yelled, “What the hell are you doing? That’s so loud!” Her mind fuzzy, she looked toward Lori Moore, who had slumped to the ground. “I saw Lori’s body, and I froze,” Beard says. “I always thought that if I ever heard gunshots, I’d duck for cover. I didn’t. I just froze.” She realized that the bang had come from a gun fired near her. Then she realized not one but two shots had been fired: Griffel lay next Lori Moore, each with a bullet to the head.
(By Beard's recollection, Jason Moore fired the gun near the hostess table, about 10 feet away from his victims. But police believe he stepped forward quickly to close the distance before taking two point-blank shots.)
As the gunfire rang out, Absher’s husband had grabbed her and dragged her under a table for safety. Yet she trained her eye on Jason Moore. So did Beard, who was calling 911 with her cellphone. “I never felt I was in fear for my life,” Beard says. “I knew his intention was Lori.” Jason Moore jabbed his pistol — a 9 mm semiautomatic — to the side of his head. Eyes closed, he mumbled at least twice, “Watch this. Watch this.” Beard says, “I think he was trying to talk himself into killing himself.” Jason Moore squeezed the trigger. But as he flinched, the bullet grazed his cheek before slamming into the ceiling. During the flurry, some classmates dove for cover. “It was the quietest thing that ever happened,” Beard says. “Nobody yelled, ‘Somebody’s got a gun!’” But somebody took action: a biker, wearing a vest from his club. Standing just outside the front door at the sound of the shots, he dashed inside, paused for a moment to discern the situation, then spotted the gunman. In a flash, he dove toward Jason Moore. At the same time, an off-duty FBI agent — there for social reasons — had drawn his sidearm. He took a shot at Jason Moore just as the biker tackled him. “It must’ve happened at the same split-second,” Ganschow said. The bullet ripped through Jason Moore's chest and severed his aortic valve, police say. "By the time he hit the ground, he essentially was dead," Chief Ganschow says. Meanwhile, a nurse from the Class of ’99 gave CPR to Lori Moore, and the singer — a paramedic — worked on Griffel. Both were rushed to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, where they were pronounced dead that night. The FBI agent has not been identified. Nor has the biker, who has requested anonymity. But Ganschow called him after the shooting to express gratitude. “It was an impressive act,” the chief says. The Moores’ children are staying with Lori Moore’s parents in Creve Coeur. Her friends have started Legacy for Lori (www.gofundme.com/adzaqk) to raise money for the kids’ care. As of Tuesday afternoon, the fund was almost halfway to the goal of $25,000. “This has really touched a lot of people’s hearts,” Absher says.
But the shootings also have affected witnesses. Absher starts to cry, then says, “I wish I could’ve thought something dangerous was going to happen, so I could’ve said (to Lori Moore), ‘Let’s get out of here.’” When Absher got back home in Oak Forest on Sunday night, she heard fireworks. “I wanted to get under cover,” she says. “It was traumatic.” On Monday, Beard went out to eat with her husband and father-in-law to a restaurant that had a World Cup game on the back-bar television. At the time of a crucial goal, many patrons cheered and banged on the bar. Beard became unglued. “I never felt so scared in my life,” she says. Beard, like Absher — and, perhaps, others there Saturday night — isn't sure how to process the brutality of what happened. “Our new reality,” she says, “is so unreal.”