DNA, shoe leather help Arizona police identify killer of 6
Over the course of five days, six people were found dead in and around Scottsdale, Arizona. Authorities say all were fatally shot by one man: Dwight Lamon Jones, 56.
Jones died Monday morning of a self-inflicted gunshot wound as police officers prepared to take him into custody at an extended stay hotel in Scottsdale, police say.
What was the motive? Investigators aren’t saying, but four of the victims had a connection to Jones’ divorce, authorities said.
Police are trying to find out if the fifth and six killings — discovered on Monday — are also linked to his marital strife.
Here’s what’s been made public about how the killings unfolded.
Thursday, May 31
Steven Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist was the best-known victim. He was killed Thursday in Phoenix shortly before 5:30 p.m., shot dead after witnesses heard a loud argument and gunshots. He died outside his office, reported CNN affiliate KTVK.
Pitt had examined Jones as part of Jones’ bitter divorce, Scottsdale Police Commander Richard Slavin said Monday at a news conference.
Pitt, 59, served as a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, and developed a reputation for his work in forensic psychiatric evaluations, according to Pitt’s bio. He had been retained as an expert and testified in many cases.
He had been involved in several high-profile cases, including the investigation into the death of child beauty queen JonBent Ramsey in 1996.
Police issued a sketch of a suspect, based on witnesses to the Pitt killing, but did not identify him. The sketch showed a white man with a round face and a dark hat, Slavin said. Jones, now thought to have been the killer, was black. Police could not explain the discrepancy.
Investigators also found shell casings at the scene, one of which had a DNA sample, Slavin said.
Friday, June 1
Veleria Sharp, 48, and Laura Anderson, 49, were shot and killed at a Scottsdale law firm Friday afternoon, according to Scottsdale Police.
Police responded to a shooting around 2:15 p.m. and found a woman with a gunshot wound to her head, who had walked to a bus stop trying to get help.
She was taken to a hospital, where she later died.
A second woman was found dead inside the building. Both victims worked as paralegals at a law office, police said.
The women worked at the law office of Elizabeth Feldman, Jones’ ex-wife’s divorce lawyer. Slavin said investigators think Feldman was the real target but was not in the office that day.
The shell casings were similar to those found at the Pitt slaying scene.
Saturday, June 2
Marshall Levine, 72, was found dead Saturday at a Scottsdale mental health counseling facility.
Levine had been shot and was found in his office by an acquaintance at approximately 12:10 a.m. Saturday.
The shell casings were similar to those at the two previous crime scenes, Slavin said.
Levine apparently was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He rented office space in the same location where a therapist once treated Jones’ son, Slavin said.
Police received a tip Saturday in “reference to Mr. Jones,” Slavin said. He didn’t say who provided the tip.
Jones’ ex-wife issued a statement saying her current husband, a retired Phoenix police detective, “recognized the connection to my divorce and the three crime scenes and he notified the Phoenix Police violent crime unit on Saturday night.”
Sunday, June 3
Police began to actively look for Jones, Slavin said, and determined he’d been in Fountain Hills near a residence.
He was located in the afternoon and officers followed his gold Mercedes with distinctive wheels. But they didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest, Slavin said.
That night, the officers saw Jones stop in Scottsdale and deposit a package in a trash can, Slavin said. Officers retrieved the package and found a .22-caliber pistol, he said. Investigators didn’t know where it came from, but from its caliber they knew it was not used in the killings of Pitt, Sharp, Anderson or Levine.
Thinking Jones was the prime suspect, a Scottsdale police detective flew to northern Arizona in a Phoenix police plane and obtained a DNA swab from a relative of Jones who lives there, Slavin said. The detective flew back immediately.
Monday, June 4
DNA testing began not long after midnight, Slavin said, and about four hours later the lab matched DNA from the shell casing to the DNA from Jones’ relative.
Detectives felt confident Jones was the suspect, based on the similarity of the shell casings as well as security camera video that placed Jones’ gold Mercedes near Pitt’s office and the law firm, Slavin said.
“We had a great circumstantial case against Mr. Jones but we really wanted that definitive proof that it was him. And it was his DNA on those shell casings that took us through all those scenes. We had that proof,” Slavin said at the news conference.
On Monday morning, officers with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office went to the house in Fountain Hills to make contact with the residents, Slavin said. Nobody answered the door, so officers used a ladder and looked through an upstairs window, seeing a man who’d apparently been shot, Slavin said.
The officers forced entry and also found a woman fatally shot in the house, Slavin said. Those victims have not been identified and they have not been connected by ballistics to the first four killings.
But detectives learned the .22-caliber pistol had belonged to the man in Fountain Hills. That linked Jones to those two killings, Slavin said.
Police had followed Jones to an extended stay hotel in Scottsdale, but before arresting him removed people from the second floor and part of the third floor for safety.
Jones apparently heard the police and fired seven or eight rounds at officers, Slavin said. No officers were hurt.
“And eventually in this action they found that Mr. Jones had killed himself, self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Slavin said.
Slavin said he didn’t know if other victims will be found. For now, he said, the extended stay hotel is a crime scene.