National News

Arizona Man Left a Trail of 6 Bodies, Police Believe, Then Added His Own

Posted June 4, 2018 10:37 p.m. EDT
Updated June 4, 2018 10:42 p.m. EDT

The killings in Arizona began Thursday afternoon, and they continued with alarming frequency.

First there was Steven E. Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist known for his work on high-profile cases like the JonBenét Ramsey investigation. He was shot outside his office in northeast Phoenix.

The next afternoon, Veleria Sharp, 48, a paralegal who had been shot, was seen stumbling down a street and begging for help. When the police followed a trail of blood back to the Scottsdale, Arizona, law firm where she worked, they found Laura Anderson, 49, another paralegal who had been shot. Both women died.

Just hours later, Marshall Levine’s girlfriend found him, a 72-year-old life coach and marriage counselor, dead of two gunshot wounds in his office. That brought the killings in this otherwise relaxed golf and spa hub to four.

By then, ballistic evidence had convinced the authorities that the first two shootings were related. And at about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, they got the most important of more than 100 tips — one that would lead them to Dwight Lamon Jones, a man who had a connection to all of the deceased through a bitter divorce proceeding several years ago.

By Monday morning they felt they had a solid case against Jones, 56, and they also knew where he was. The police arrived at an Extended Stay America hotel in Scottsdale and surreptitiously began to evacuate guests.

Jones figured out what was happening, and opened fire on the police. He did not strike any officers. Just after 8 a.m., he was discovered dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

But those weren’t the only killings.

On Sunday, the police learned of the deaths of a man and a woman at a home in Fountain Hills, about 15 miles east of the other shootings. Though the police later said that they had not yet explicitly linked the deaths to Jones, they said they believe he was in the area sometime before the bodies were discovered. That brought the killings they believe he carried out to six in about 96 hours.

“In law enforcement, we don’t have the benefit of saying we were successful when lives are lost,” Sheriff Paul Penzone of Maricopa County said at a news conference, calling Jones’ actions “the worst of humanity.”

At the same news conference, Rich Slavin, an assistant chief with the Scottsdale Police Department, tied the first four deaths together. Jones, he said, had gone through “a divorce situation” eight or nine years ago, in which his now ex-wife, Connie Jones, had retained a lawyer at the firm where the paralegals were killed. As part of his divorce proceeding, Jones was also required to see Pitt; and his son was required to see a doctor who had used the office space Levine happened to be occupying the day Jones shot him.

“We started to see that Mr. Jones was visiting them in an effort to right some wrong,” Slavin said, adding that the suspect had probably intended to kill Connie Jones’ lawyer.

“She wasn’t present in that law firm that day," Slavin continued. “Unfortunately, two employees were.”

In a statement, Connie Jones said she was “deeply saddened by the tragedy caused by my ex-husband,” who she called “a very emotionally disturbed person.”

She also said her husband, a retired Phoenix police detective, recognized the connection between the divorce and the three crime scenes and he notified the police Saturday night, around the time the police say they got the crucial tip.

“Personally, I have feared for my safety for the past nine years,” she said. “I cannot express the emotions I feel for the innocent families touched by this senseless violence.”

Connie Jones was far from the only person who was on edge over the past several days. The killings, which had not appeared to be random, worried those in the medical and legal professions and prompted the police to blanket Maricopa County with officers who provided security for people who may have been at risk.

“I personally fielded a lot of questions from those groups because they were concerned,” said Sgt. Ben Hoster of the Scottsdale Police Department. Among their inquiries, he said: “Should we go to work on Monday?”

At a breakfast restaurant just steps away from the hotel were Jones shot himself, Peter Verros, the restaurant’s owner, noted how uncommon violence was in the area.

“This is a suburb,’ Verros, 40, said. “You’re not used to something like this — a four, six-person murder spree in Scottsdale? Holy cow!”

When asked Monday about the killer’s motive, Slavin said that it was impossible to totally understand.

“Taking the lives of innocent people,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said, “should never make any sense.”