Macomb County woman shares pain of losing daughter to stray bullet at fireworks 6 years ago

Michelle Packard killed during 2012 fireworks show in Lansing

LANSING, Mich. – A Macomb County mother spoke to Local 4 about the stray bullet that killed her daughter six years ago during a Fourth of July fireworks show in Lansing.

Michelle Packard, 34, was engaged when a stray bullet struck and killed her.

Pam Leidlein said her daughter was a Michigan State University doctoral student who was always smiling.

"She could be really silly," Leidlein said. "She liked to tease and liked to laugh."

One of the last photos taken of Packard's whole family was at her graduation ceremony. Her fiancee, Wes, stood next to her.

On July 4, 2012, Packard, Wes and his 6-year-old daughter, Annabelle, went to Adado Riverfront Park in Lansing for a fireworks show.

"I told her to have a good time," Leidlein said. "Enjoy the fireworks. She said, 'Well, we got here early so we would have good seats.'"

An hour later, Leidlein's phone rang again, but this time it was Wes, who sounded panicked.

"(He said), 'Michelle collapsed. They're taking her to the hospital. She isn't regaining consciousnesses,'" Leidlein said. "I'm like, 'What happened?' He said, 'I think she got hit in the head with a rock.'"

Police and paramedics thought Packard had collapsed or suffered a seizure.

"She was sitting in the chair, and her soon-to-be daughter, Annabelle, said to me, 'Pam, I tried to wake her up. I tried. I kept saying, Michelle wake up, wake up. But she didn't listen to me,'" Leidlein said.

Two hours later, doctors did a CAT scan and found a bullet lodged at the base of Packard's brain.

"I was in shock as soon as I heard that word, 'bullet,'" Leidlein said. "I knew it was not good."

Packard died the next day.

"I can't describe it because there aren't words to describe how painful it is," Leidlein said. "It's as physical as it was emotional pain. It was like somebody grabbed your heart and just wouldn't let go and just squeezed it until you thought you were going to burst."

Leidlein said she always worried about her daughters, but she never imagined something like this would happen.

"She was in a safe place, a very safe place, because they had searched all the bags coming into the park that day," Leidlein said. "There were a hundred policemen there. Extra duty policemen. They weren't allowed sparklers even in the park because of the dangers."

Detectives working Packard's case later told her family they believed the stray bullet could have come from anywhere within a 1-mile radius.

"The person who shot the gun and killed my daughter was not being responsible," Leidlein said. "I don't know the circumstances of that. I'm assuming they were celebrating Fourth of July, maybe it was in the middle of a crime, too, or an argument. I probably will never know exactly what their thoughts were at the time."

Whoever fired the shot hasn't been caught, police said.

"I would like to meet the person and tell that person about my daughter, just so they would understand how much pain that careless act caused to me and my family and her friends and anyone who knew her," Leidlein said.

After Packard's death, Wes spiraled into a deep depression. He killed himself 10 months after the incident.

"I guess people need to understand that anytime when someone dies, it affects a wavelength of people," Leidlein said. "But when it's something like a violent act and being struck by a bullet when you're in a safe place ... it has a ripple effect. It is sad, and I don't want to see it happen to anyone else."

Leidlein volunteers with other mothers across the country who have been impacted by gun violence. They share their personal stories with lawmakers, hoping to inspire change.

According to the CDC, more than 18,000 people in the United States are unintentionally shot on average every year, 500 fatally.

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