Steven Pitt, a prominent forensic psychiatrist who had consulted in high-profile murder cases, was shot outside his office in broad daylight Thursday afternoon. He would be one of four victims killed over the next two days within miles of each other in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Around the time Pitt was killed, witnesses heard a loud argument followed by gunfire, police said. The following day, two paralegals were shot inside the family law office where they worked, about 10 miles away. A psychologist was found shot to death in his office hours later.
The string of shootings raised questions about whether Pitt, 59, may have been killed because of his profession, a line of work that required him to study the minds of criminals, and whether the killings of victims working in related fields may have been connected.
Sgt. Ben Hoster, a spokesman for the Scottsdale Police Department, told reporters Saturday that Pitt’s killing was tied to the shooting of the two paralegals. The two women were shot just after 2 p.m. Friday in a law office in downtown Scottsdale, across the street from government buildings. One woman, who had been shot in the head, was able to come out of the office and flag a bus driver for help, Hoster said.
She later died at a hospital. Police followed the woman’s blood trail and found the second victim, Hoster said. The two, Veleria Sharp, 48, and Laura Anderson, 49, were paralegals for Burt, Feldman, Grenier family law firm.
The Washington Post was unable to reach Burt, Feldman, Grenier. In a statement to the Arizona Republic, the firm said:
“Laura has worked with us as family for more than ten years. Her intellect, passion and friendship has meant more to us than we can even begin to convey. She was more than a coworker, she was a friend, a mother, a grandmother, daughter and wife and gave all of herself to her family, her friends and her work.
Veleria was a treasured member of our work family. She brought joy, calmness, warmth and compassion to all that she did. She was a dedicated mother, wife and daughter. She and her family shared a deep passion for music and their faith.”
Hoster did not say how the deaths of Pitt, Sharp and Anderson were thought to be connected or address why the three were killed. But the Phoenix Police Department released a sketch of a man suspected of killing Pitt.
The last shooting was reported just after midnight Saturday. Police said an acquaintance found 72-year-old Marshall Levine, a psychologist and counselor, dead with a gunshot wound inside his office, located roughly halfway between Pitt’s office and the law firm.
Hoster said investigators do not know yet whether Levine’s death was connected to the others.
Pitt, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, was known for his role in the investigation into the death of JonBenét Ramsey, a child beauty-pageant star who made national headlines in 1996 when she was found dead in her family’s home in Boulder, Colo. The 6-year-old’s parents became suspects in her death, which had been dramatized in movies and documentaries. Prosecutors announced years later that DNA tests cleared John and Patsy Ramsey in their daughter’s killing.
Pitt also helped police as they tried to solve a string of crimes that terrorized Phoenix in 2006. Mark Goudeau, nicknamed the “Baseline Rapist” and later the “Baseline Killer” because the crimes first happened along Phoenix’s Baseline Road, was convicted on more than five dozen charges, including several counts of murder, rape and kidnapping.