By 2009, Dwight Lamon Jones’s 21-year marriage was cascading into violent chaos.
He and his wife had been fighting a lot, court records say, and at one point, he fractured her rib cage. On May 6, 2009, Jones threatened to kill his wife in front of their 12-year-old son, screaming expletives and telling the boy his mother didn’t care about him.
“I’ll take you out to the … pool and drown you,” Jones told his wife, according to court records.
Connie Jones called police that day. Less than a week later, she filed for divorce.
Her husband was arrested and taken to two psychiatric hospitals, where he stayed for several days. He was discharged, even though doctors found that his mental state was deteriorating. Dwight Jones “will continue to unravel … he will become increasingly paranoid, likely psychotic, and pose an even greater risk of perpetrating violence,” according to an assessment by Steven Pitt, a prominent forensic psychiatrist who had consulted in several high-profile criminal cases.
And unravel Jones did.
He spent the past several years living in hotel rooms, embittered by his divorce and consumed with long-held grudges, police say.
In hours-long, rambling videos posted in a YouTube channel called “exposing lowlifes,” Jones railed against his perceived enemies — judges, psychiatrists, lawyers, counselors, and his ex-wife — whom he accused of conspiring to paint him as an abusive and troubled man, to deprive him of his son. He claimed that his former spouse was the abuser, and she had concocted a dubious tale of a battered wife.
His anger boiled over last week, in a violent rampage that sent police on a days-long manhunt and rattled Scottsdale, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb known for its golf courses, resorts and nightlife. Police say Jones swiftly targeted people who had been involved in his divorce proceedings, including the forensic psychiatrist who had examined him. The killing spree would end in Jones’s death, police say, after the 56-year-old wanted for killing six people shot himself inside a hotel room.
Connie Jones, 52, described her ex-husband as a “very emotionally disturbed person.”
“As a medical professional and a citizen I am deeply saddened by the tragedy caused by my ex-husband … Personally, I have feared for my safety for the past nine years,” Jones, who is a doctor, said in a brief statement. “I cannot express the emotions I feel for the innocent families touched by this senseless violence.”
Jones’s rampage began Thursday, when police say he shot and killed Pitt. The 59-year-old psychiatrist was killed in broad daylight outside his office on the outskirts of Scottsdale.
Less than 24 hours later, Jones went to the law firm his wife had retained during the divorce. There, police say, he shot Veleria Sharp, 48, and Laura Anderson, 49, two paralegals who worked for the firm in downtown Scottsdale. With a gunshot wound to her head, Sharp made her way out of the office and flagged a bus driver for help before she died. Police followed her blood trail back to the office and found Anderson.
The next victim was psychologist Marshall Levine, 72, who was not tied to Jones’s divorce case but happened to share an office space with someone who was: another psychologist Jones’s son was required to see as part of the divorce proceedings. Levine’s girlfriend found his body just after midnight Saturday, police said.
By midnight Monday, police found two more bodies. Mary Simmons, 70, and Bryon Thomas, 72, were shot to death in their home in Fountain Hills, a town outside Phoenix. Investigators believe Jones went to that home Sunday afternoon and killed the two, though they have not said why.
Jones killed himself inside an Extended Stay hotel room, where he had been living, as tactical team members closed in Monday morning. Police have not said what kind of weapon Jones used in the killings, or how he got it.
For days, the attacks placed many in the legal and mental-health communities on edge and raised speculations that Pitt, the most well-known of the victims, may have been killed because of his profession, which required him to study the minds of criminals. Some feared that the attacker was indiscriminately killing people involved in the criminal justice and court system.
Police said they received more than a hundred tips about the attacks. One came from Connie Jones and her husband, a retired detective who recognized some of the victims’ connections to the divorce case, Connie Jones said in her statement.
Little is known about Dwight Jones. He had a GED but no college degree. He and his ex-wife were married in 1988 in Fayetteville, N.C. Their son was born nine years later, in 1997. For much of their marriage, Dwight Jones stayed at home and took care of their son, while Connie Jones worked. Her substantial salary as a radiologist afforded them a house in Scottsdale, two Mercedes-Benz cars and a Toyota.
By 2009, Dwight Jones had descended into troubling behavior. In January of that year, his son’s school in Scottsdale sought harassment orders against him after he assaulted administrators, the Arizona Republic reported. The boy was transferred to another school. In April of that year, he attacked his wife in front of their son because she asked the boy to turn down the TV. Jones pinned his wife down on the couch, with his knee pressed against her chest. If she disrespected him, Jones said, “she would be found at the bottom of the pool,” according to court records cited by the Republic.
The abuse led to a police standoff on May 6, 2009, when Connie Jones secretly called 911. After police arrived, Dwight Jones refused to come out of the house, and the boy was inside with him, court records say. He told his son that his mother was a whore.
“She’s got these cops out there ready to kill me … your mom wants me to die … she wants you to die,” Jones told his son, according to court records.
Jones was charged and later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor, public records show.
Pitt, the psychiatrist, testified during the divorce proceedings that Jones had anxiety and mood disorders, that he was antisocial, narcissistic and paranoid. He lacked remorse and frequently suspected his ex-wife of infidelity, even without justification. He had no friends or confidants, but had a “grandiose sense of self importance” and required “excessive admiration,” court records say.
He had made egregious claims that Connie Jones sexually abused their son. He also was often armed. According to a psychologist’s report, Dwight Jones “always had a weapon because of a disagreement he had with the landscape company.”
Jones, though, loved his son “very deeply,” court records say. And at one point after his parents separated, the boy was missing his father. The divorce left the child traumatized, staring into space or falling asleep during sessions with counselors.
The marriage was dissolved in 2010, and Connie Jones was given sole custody of the son. A judge allowed supervised visits every week, despite Jones’s abusive behavior and experts’ assessments that he was mentally unstable.
Before the attacks, he is believed to have created several “narrated” YouTube videos, said Sgt. Ben Hoster, spokesman for the Scottsdale Police Department. Some were posted as recently as a week ago. None of the videos showed his face; some just showed a white mask as a man’s voice can be heard talking about a corrupt court system he claimed had been rigged against him, according to the Arizona Republic’s description of the videos.
YouTube has since suspended the channel, and the videos have been replaced with a message in a red banner: “This account has been terminated due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy against spam, deceptive practices, and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations.”