PHOENIX (AP) — The man suspected of killing six people in the Phoenix area last week had been committed to a behavioral health facility after a domestic violence incident and was restricted from seeing his son during a contentious divorce, which police say has connections to several of his victims.
Court records and online recordings by 56-year-old Dwight Lamon Jones paint a picture of a troubled man with a history of domestic violence who at one point was a stay-at-home dad who occasionally taught tennis. A newspaper clipping from 1993 shows he was tennis pro in Texas at that time.
Jones killed himself as police closed in on him Monday, days after the first of his victims was fatally shot.
Authorities say some of Jones’ victims appeared to have various connections to his divorce from radiologist Dr. Connie Jones.
The 22-year marriage was dysfunctional for years, court records say. But, Connie Jones filed for divorce in May 2009 just days after her then-husband was arrested on a domestic violence charge at the couple’s home in Scottsdale.
His wife’s attorney, Elizabeth Feldman, said in court records Jones became violent toward his wife when she tried to protect her child from Jones, who was using abusive language toward their son in a disagreement over basketball.
Feldman said Jones backed her client against a wall, hit her in the face, threatened to kill her and said “police would find her at the bottom of the pool.” His wife believed he had a gun in the house, though none was found.
It took 90 minutes of negotiations for police to convince Jones to come out of his house. When he finally walked out of the house, he used his son as a shield by holding the child out of front of him, Feldman said in court records.
After his arrest, Jones was involuntarily committed to a hospital and then transferred a behavioral health center where he spent more than a week, court records show.
The Scottsdale city prosecutor’s office confirmed that Jones pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the incident. He was put on probation, placed in a domestic nonviolence program and ordered to undergo a mental health screening.
One of Jones’ attorneys denied the domestic abuse allegations. Jones admitted to being verbally abusive during the May 2009 incident and said he was “remorseful” and had suffered from being away from his son, the records say. The attorney said that Jones maintained he wasn’t a danger to his family.
Superior Court Judge Pamela Gates in a November 2010 divorce judgment wrote that the court found Jones mental health was “an area of significant concern.”
The judge also wrote that giving Jones unrestricted time with his then-13-year-old son “would endanger seriously the child’s physical, mental, moral and emotional health,” and limited him to supervised visits.
During the divorce, Jones was evaluated by Dr. Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist who served as an expert for Jones’ wife. Police believe he was Jones’ first victim when he was shot outside his office Thursday.
Pitt had testified that Jones had anxiety and mood disorders and features of a paranoid personality. Pitt said the father didn’t conform to social norms, acted impulsively and aggressively, lacked remorse, didn’t have close friends, and required excessive admiration, according to court records.
Veleria Sharp and Laura Anderson, two paralegals killed a day after Pitt, worked for the law firm that represented Jones’ wife during the divorce. The fourth victim, Dr. Marshall Levine, shared office space with Karen Kolbe, a behavioral health professional who counseled the Jones’ son and who served as a witness in the divorce.
KPHO-TV reported on Tuesday that Kolbe had received a menacing voicemail from the suspect several years ago.
“I just remember a kind of threatening, bullying kind of demand, and I get that every once in a while when a parent feels like they’re getting left out of the process,” Kolbe told the news station. “In this case knowing what I’d been told and what I’d seen about him, I didn’t want to have contact with him. I didn’t think it was safe.”
There are few details about what happened to Jones after his divorce. Police say he spent the past nine years living out of extended stay hotels.
Last month, Jones posted several videos on YouTube in which he gripes about his ex-wife and the court system that sided with her in the divorce. He made a disparaging remark about Pitt in one of the videos.
Police also suspect Jones killed a couple inside their Fountain Hills home, Bryon Thomas and Mary Simmons, sometime on Sunday. Police said Wednesday that Simmons and Jones met four to five years ago through tennis, and would occasionally meet to play at local parks.
Authorities haven’t released a connection to the divorce in those killings.
“He was a very emotionally disturbed person as the court records will confirm,” Connie Jones said in a statement issued Monday. “Personally, I have feared for my safety for the past nine years.”
By MELISSA DANIELS and JACQUES BILLEAUD
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