A man suspected of killing six people, including a prominent forensic psychiatrist, in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Ariz., fatally shot himself as police closed in Monday, ending a days-long manhunt that has rattled many in the legal and mental-health communities.
Police on Monday afternoon identified Dwight Lamon Jones, a 56-year-old man who had been arrested for domestic violence in 2009 and had been living in hotels in the last nine years, as the gunman who shot the forensic psychiatrist, a psychologist and two paralegals. Some were connected to a messy divorce over which Jones seemed to have held a grudge for years, Scottsdale Assistant Chief of Police Richard Slavin said.
Police also suspect Jones had killed a man and woman in a home in Fountain Hills, Ariz., a town outside of Phoenix, though they have not said why they think Jones killed them.
Slavin said ballistic evidence connected the killings of psychiatrist Steven Pitt, paralegals Veleria Sharp and Laura Anderson, and psychologist Marshall Levine. On Sunday morning, police had identified Jones as the suspect and had taken a DNA sample from family members that they believed linked him to the crimes. Shortly after police began surveillance Sunday afternoon, they witnessed Jones dispose of a pistol, which police said was not used in the crimes, but belonged to the male victim from Fountain Hills.
Officers with the Scottsdale and Phoenix police departments tracked down the suspect at an Extended Stay hotel in Scottsdale on Monday morning. Sgt. Vince Lewis, a spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, told reporters that Jones fired shots from inside his room as tactical team members were evacuating the hotel. They later found Jones with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Lewis said, adding that the officers did not fire their weapons.
The victims in the days-long killing spree worked in related fields, a fact that had raised fears that the suspect might be indiscriminately attacking people who worked in the criminal justice or court system in the Phoenix area.
Pitt, a 59-year-old forensic psychiatrist who had consulted in high-profile murder cases, including the 1996 killing of child beauty-pageant star JonBenét Ramsey, was shot Thursday afternoon outside his office on the outskirts of Scottsdale. Jones had been required to see Pitt as part of his divorce proceedings, Slavin said.
Sharp, 48, and Anderson, 49, the two paralegals, were shot at a law firm in downtown Scottsdale at about 2 p.m. Friday, less than 24 hours after Pitt was killed. Police said one of the women, who had been shot in the head, was able to get out of the building and flag a bus driver for help before she died. Police followed her blood trail and found the other victim.
The two women were paralegals for the family law firm Burt, Feldman, Grenier. Jones’s ex-wife, Connie Jones, had retained Elizabeth Feldman as her divorce lawyer, Slavin said.
Just after midnight Saturday, Levine, a psychologist and counselor, was found dead with a gunshot wound in his office, about halfway between the sites of the previous shootings. Slavin said Levine didn’t come home that night, so his girlfriend went to his office to find him.
Levine was not part of Jones’s divorce case. But as part of the proceedings, the suspect’s son was required to see a counselor — who happened to share an office space with Levine.
“He was a very emotionally disturbed person, as the court records will confirm,” Connie Jones said in a statement published by the Arizona Republic. “Personally, I have feared for my safety for the past nine years. I cannot express the emotions I feel for the innocent families touched by this.”
Police had initially said little about the suspect, other than that he was an adult male. Earlier, Phoenix police released a sketch of what appeared to be an older white man wearing a hat. On Monday afternoon, they released a photo of Jones, who is black.
Slavin said he couldn’t speak to Jones’s motivations, but evidence suggested he was angry about the divorce. Police said Dwight Jones had lived in Extended Stay hotels for nine years. Connie Jones filed for divorce in 2009, but News 12, a local NBC affiliate, obtained records that showed the case was not resolved until 2017.
Enzo Yaksic, a criminal profiler and founder of Atypical Homicide Research Group at Northeastern University in Boston, said serial killers are generally motivated by a desire for revenge — “angry and resentful individuals who believe they are settling a grievance for perceived or actual wrongs and blame others and the systems they represent for their problems.”
The suspect in the Phoenix-area killings fits that description, Yaksic hypothesized based on information published about the deaths.
“This offender espoused the methodical calculation of the serial killer, the vengeful nature of the mass murderer and the swiftness and exigency of the spree killer,” Yaksic said. “Few offenders are adept at cycling from one typology to the next in quick succession, as was done here.”
Before police identified Jones, some speculated that Pitt, the first victim, might have been killed because of his profession, a line of work that required him to study the minds of criminals.
“When Dr. Pitt was shot, it was speculated among a good number of people that it could be tied to a case,” said Justin Yentes, a private investigator in Phoenix who works with criminal defense lawyers in the area. “We work around these types of situations. There’s always a risk that you’ve upset the wrong person, I suppose. The general belief was that there was an upset party in a case that was potentially seeking revenge.”
Yentes said he knows of several law Phoenix-area law firms that did not open Monday because of fears of being targeted, and some have talked about having uniformed officers in their lobbies.
Steve Silverman, an insurance-claim lawyer, does not know any of the victims, but he has been on edge for a few days. Levine, the psychologist, was shot and killed across the street from Silverman’s house. And the hotel where Jones is said to have killed himself is right next to his office in Scottsdale’s Agua Caliente shopping center.
That the suspect killed the victims in their workplaces, and that he was unidentified for days, only raised fears for Silverman that he might run into the killer. Before news broke Monday morning that the suspect was dead, Silverman had contemplated not coming to work. The day before, he had planned to come to the office but decided to stay home.
“To me, it drives home the importance of maintaining a sense of awareness or vigilance. I feel absolutely awful for the family members of the victims,” Silverman said.
That paralegals were attacked also struck a nerve with him.
“None of these things are rational, but it seems particularly irrational to attack paralegals. That was just beyond the pale,” Silverman said. “That was a degree of recklessness and anger and rage that was beyond what I might have expected.”
The Washington Post was unable to reach the law firm where the paralegals worked. In a statement to the Arizona Republic, the firm said both Sharp and Anderson were dedicated and treasured members of its staff. Both were wives and mothers.
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, who made national headlines in 1996 when she was found dead in her family’s home in Boulder, Colo.
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 of more than five dozen charges, including several counts of murder, rape and kidnapping.
Levine owned a clinic called Peak Life Solutions and was a “life coach hypnotherapist,” according to his profile on Psychology Today.
“I coach because serving, fostering & supporting my clients in reaching their goals & overcoming their challenges gives purpose to my life,” Levine’s profile reads. “My clients’ fulfillment is my joy.”
There have been several serial killers in the Phoenix area over the years, said Yaksic, whose organization maintains a database on 2,700 serial killers nationwide. Most recently, a man named Cleophus Cooksey Jr. was accused of fatally shooting nine people in Phoenix, including his mother and her boyfriend, in November and December.