Instead, Traub was spooked by the sight of a police car - as Traub allegedly told a fellow prison inmate later - and mercifully drove past the children. But police say he was still on a mission to kill and picked a new target at random in the busy parking lot of the Center Point Place shopping center.
Hordis. A 42-year-old Ivyland woman. Loading groceries into the back of her white Ford Taurus station wagon at 9:15 that morning.
Five shots later, and Hordis lay dead in the parking lot. Five minutes later, police arrested Traub as he allegedly fled down Old York Road in his red Oldsmobile Cutlass in Hatboro.
"I did it," Traub allegedly told police who stopped him. "I killed her. I am the one you are looking for."
Not only in the Hordis case, but prosecutors say he is also the man sought as the "random, willful, cold-blooded assassin" described by then-District Attorney Alan Rubenstein in two August 1998 stalker shootings.
Those victims survived devastating injuries. Donna J. Holbrook, 52, was shot four times in the face and neck as she arrived for her cafeteria job about 5:45 a.m. Aug. 19 at the BetzDearborn Inc. plant in Horsham. Shawn VanOrder, 35, was shot twice in the back and leg about 6 a.m. Aug. 23 as he rode his bicycle along Street Road to his job at Closet Works, a small manufacturing plant in Warminster. Both were shot with a .38-caliber weapon.
Fear gripped the Warminster-Horsham area after the Holbrook and VanOrder shootings, random and seemingly without motive by a stalking, serial gunman. More than a half-dozen law-enforcement agencies joined forces on the case and spent a frustrating year looking for the shooter.
Today, Traub, a high school dropout who was fired from his job as a Wells Fargo security guard after an unrelated brush with the law, goes on trial in Bucks County Court for the death of Hordis and the shootings of Holbrook and VanOrder, both of Warminster.
The state is seeking the death penalty for Traub, who has been incarcerated for undisclosed reasons in Norristown State Hospital since last fall.
After his arrest, Traub's former neighbors remembered him walking the streets near his Willow Grove boarding house, mumbling to himself, wearing a trench coat and combat boots. His filthy $65-a-week room was found filled with books and videos with violent themes.
"He had a keen interest in violence," said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Wendy Demchick-Alloy at the time. "He was a very angry man."
Judge Cynthia Rufe has denied a pretrial request for a change of venue, saying newspaper and television coverage was not excessive. She said she could reconsider if it appeared an impartial jury could not be chosen this week.
Courthouse security is expected to be tight, as it was for Traub's last court appearance in March, when the entire basement was cleared and searched before he was brought from a holding cell into the courtroom.
"He is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that's what we intend to do: prove him guilty on all charges," said David W. Zellis, Bucks County first assistant district attorney.
Traub's attorney, public defender Ann Faust, refused to comment.
Zellis would not say which day-care center Traub allegedly targeted as he drove in the Warminster area the morning of Aug. 31. Testimony at a pretrial hearing indicated he told his plans to "shoot at a day-care center" to inmate David McBrien at the Bucks County prison.
McBrien told a prison supervisor that Traub changed his mind and went to the shopping center when he saw the police car drive by.
Zellis and prison officials have refused to say why Traub was transferred to the Norristown facility.
But a spokesman for the state Department of Public Welfare, Jay Pagni, said inmates awaiting trial are usually sent to such hospitals either for evaluation or for exhibiting unusual behavior that leads prison officials to believe they need treatment.
Zellis said jury selection could take several days. He said he would then prosecute the three cases in the order they occurred: the shootings of Holbrook, on Aug. 19, 1998, and Van Order, on Aug. 23, 1998, and the murder of Hordis.
If Traub is convicted of shooting Holbrook and VanOrder, Zellis said he would use that to press for the death penalty as an aggravating circumstance in the Hordis case.
Born in Abington, Hordis was a 1975 graduate of Upper Moreland High School. She and her husband, William F. Hordis Jr., lived in Warminster for 14 years, founding Hordis Doors Inc., which they ran from their home, with Karen Lee Hordis as president. They were parents of two boys, ages 10 and 11, whose soccer activities won their mother's enthusiastic participation.
Friends said she volunteered to run the concession stand for the forthcoming soccer tournament and had just bought condiments for the weekend when she was shot and killed.
Rubenstein, now a Common Pleas Court judge, said last fall that ballistics tests showed the bullets in the three shootings came from the revolver found in Traub's car after the Hordis slaying. The friend who bought the gun for Traub, Jonathan Paleologos, has pleaded guilty to third-degree felony charges and awaits sentencing.
Traub denied at his arraignment that he shot Hordis, but police have said he bragged about the shootings, saying he was "paying back society" for his troubles.
Lacy McCrary's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org