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Four days of fear: Timeline of murder spree shooter Dwight Jones

Arizona Republic logo Arizona Republic 2/13/2019 Bree Burkitt and Uriel J. Garcia

For years, anger boiled inside 56-year-old Dwight Lamon Jones.

His mind was consumed with thoughts of his bitter divorce from his wife, a failed years-long custody battle for his son, and the notion that the family court system was corrupt.

He believed the system conspired to rob him of his family — of his life. 

For the first time, Scottsdale police have confirmed a combination of these factors likely drove Jones to kill during a bloody four-day shooting spree that left six people dead. 

“He was a complete and utter madman that had a vengeance out to kill as many people as he could involved with his wife, his divorce and the custody of their kid," Sgt. Hugh Lockerby, head of the department's violent crime unit, told The Arizona Republic during the first extended interview on the case. 

a man in a red shirt © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.

Jones's ex-wife and son moved on after the divorce was finalized, but Jones couldn’t. He holed away in a Scottsdale Extended Stay hotel room, surrounded by the relics of his divorce.

It was in that small room that he fixated on four names: Steven Pitt, Elizabeth Feldman, Karen Kolbe, and Paulette Selmi.

His years of anger would manifest in a shooting spree that put the legal community on edge as police linked nearly all of the victims to Jones's bitter divorce case. They scrambled to figure out who could be next until Jones's ex-wife, Connie Jones, led police to him.

Before police could question him, Jones took his own life inside his hotel room.

Law-enforcement reports and police interviews with dozens of people connected to the case fail to spell out Jones's exact motive. And with the gunman dead, it's unlikely investigators ever will know exactly what pushed him to kill years after the divorce was finalized.

What they do show is a detailed account of a scorned man's obsession with revenge. 

A board is shown linking Dwight Jones to six victims at a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel. © Michael Chow/The Republic A board is shown linking Dwight Jones to six victims at a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel. Thursday, May 31

The gunshots started as another hot Phoenix summer day melted into evening.

Steven Pitt stepped out of the ivy-covered stone office building in the Kierland area after a day of work. 

The forensic psychiatrist had made headlines by consulting on the notorious unsolved murder of JonBenét Ramsey and Phoenix’s Baseline Killer case. Yet his one-man practice occupied the same low-key office for years. The bulk of his work focused on high-paying divorce cases, custody battles, and less sensational criminal cases. 

Pitt's career was devoted to studying some of the most deranged criminals in the world, but he told his fiancee he never would be a target. An attacker would go after a judge or an attorney — certainly not him. And if someone was after him, he thought there would be warning signs.

Instead, he was gunned down without any forewarning outside of his office. 

Witnesses said a round-faced man with big bags under his eyes and a black, short-brimmed cap approached Pitt as he walked through the parking lot toward his car. They heard an argument, followed by a string of gunshots.

Pitt was killed and his attacker gone. A witness got a brief glimpse of the man in the black cap running away. 

She described him to a police sketch artist as a white man. 

Friday, June 1 

Veleria Sharp stepped out of a small family law office in downtown Scottsdale into the sunlight of a bright summer afternoon less than 24 hours later. Blood dripped from the gunshot wound to her cheek as she stumbled toward the door of a silver party bus parked at the curb.

a screen shot of a person: A photo of Veleria Sharp, a victim of Dwight Jones, is shown during a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel. © Michael Chow/The Republic A photo of Veleria Sharp, a victim of Dwight Jones, is shown during a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel.

She banged on the door, begging for help.

A bloody handprint dripped down the glass of the door as the driver called 911 from inside the bus. 

Veleria collapsed onto the pavement before the paramedics arrived. 

"Oh my God. I don't even know if she's alive anymore," the driver told the dispatcher.

A trail of blood led emergency responders back into the low, salmon-colored building from which Veleria had emerged. Inside, Laura Anderson was found crumpled on the floor of the law firm. She had been shot twice – once in the chest and once in the back — seemingly as she tried to run from her attacker.

Both paralegals were dead. 

The scene was chaotic when Lockerby arrived. 

Investigators had no idea what they were dealing with initially. The shooting could have been anything from a disgruntled client to a domestic violence situation involving one of the women. They didn't know if the two women were even the intended victims of the shooter or if anyone else had been in the law firm on that summer Friday afternoon. 

“A lot of information is coming in, and we had to basically make quick decisions as to what we’re going to do with that information," Lockerby said.

a woman posing for a photo: A photo of Laura Anderson, a victim of Dwight Jones, is shown during a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel. © Michael Chow/The Republic A photo of Laura Anderson, a victim of Dwight Jones, is shown during a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel.

Divorce attorney Elizabeth Feldman, one of the partners at the firm, came as soon as she heard about the shooting. She swayed nervously as investigators asked if she used Pitt in any of her cases.

There had only been one. 

The details of the "irregular" divorce stuck with her years later. She recalled how SWAT was called after the husband — Dwight Jones — threatened his wife and barricaded himself with their young son inside their Scottsdale home. 

"It was very high conflict," she said. "I was a public defender... This was pretty bad."

The mother was awarded sole custody. Feldman recalled Jones was given supervised parenting time. His ex-wife still had to pay him thousands of dollars of spousal maintenance each month. She was a doctor, and he had primarily taken care of their son.

Feldman would give investigators the name of the killer within the first few hours after the shooting. But he wasn't the only possibility. It would take Scottsdale police two days to officially tie him to the crime. 

Another attorney at the firm, Sandra Burt, frequently had used Pitt in her cases. Some began to point to one of Burt's pending divorce cases. The husband was a dead ringer for the sketch of Pitt's killer. 

Hundreds of other tips flooded the department over the course of the four-day killing spree.   

“Dwight Jones at the time was one of many," Lockerby said.

a man posing for a photo: A photo of Marshall Levine, a victim of Dwight Jones, is shown during a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel. © Michael Chow/The Republic A photo of Marshall Levine, a victim of Dwight Jones, is shown during a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel.

Phoenix police arrived at the scene of the law firm shooting shortly after. They thought there was a chance that Pitt's murder could be related to these slayings, given the legal connection.

By 9 p.m. that day, Phoenix police were able to officially tie together the cases through the shell casings found at both scenes. It was a big break, but it didn't tell investigators anything other than that the bullets came from the same gun. 

Sometime that day — possibly only an hour after Sharp and Anderson were killed — Jones walked into another nondescript building seven miles away.

He returned to a counseling office he hadn't been in for nearly a decade, only to find the woman he was looking for had left for the day. 

That didn't stop him.

Instead, he shot 72-year-old Marshall Levine in the face, twice. 

Police wouldn't be called until late Friday night, when Levine's fiancee found the psychologist shot dead in his office.

She found Levine kneeling on the ground, his head and upper body on the couch. It looked like a suicide, she cried to the emergency dispatcher. 

Police quickly realized it was an execution. 

Saturday, June 2 

Lockerby and the violent crimes unit were dealing with something unprecedented.

"What are the chances?" Lockerby said. "Had we ever experienced this in our agency, let alone in the Valley? You could cross over to other homicidal serial killer-type cases. They don't work that quickly. This was within 24 hours."

Phoenix police were able to tie Levine's murder to the others by 4 a.m. The motive — and the shooter was still a mystery. 

The news spread through the legal community quickly. Judges, lawyers and court staff all wondered how the murders were connected and who could be next. Multiple Maricopa County Superior Court judges were provided protection by law enforcement. 

"Every judge thought they were a target based off the previous victims," Lockerby said. "Everyone was trying to figure out whether any of their cases overlapped. There was no guarantee it was even one single case."

Detectives from the two police departments hunkered down in a conference room turned emergency operations center in a Scottsdale district station.They began reviewing each case in search of anything they might have overlooked — any detail that could point them to the killer.

Hundreds of tips poured in. Each one was followed up on.

"We had three cases and four dead bodies in 24 hours," Lockerby said. "Hundreds of interviews were done, and we were dealing with bits and pieces of information."

Then, Connie Jones left a message on the tip line as Saturday turned into night. 

Sunday, June 3

Scottsdale Det. John Heinzelman reached Connie on her cellphone Sunday morning. She reassured him that she was safe at her secluded mountain property outside Flagstaff. Her current husband used to be a Phoenix police detective and was with her. Her now college-aged son was there, too. 

"... All the people, all the places — the three places that were targeted... are places for people who represented me in my divorce case... it's a very significant, um, a dangerous event," Connie told the detective.

She told the detective she knew the killer was her ex-husband, Dwight Jones. 

Investigators would learn later their marriage was tumultuous from the start. Connie met Jones when she was 18. They married in 1988 while she was still in medical school. He dropped out of the Army shortly after. Her new husband quickly began showing signs of depression and grew more volatile and hostile toward her. 

Their relationship teetered for years. They tried to make it work for their young son. There were allegations of domestic violence. Dwight allegedly struck Connie and fractured her sternum in 2007, according to court records. He pinned her to a couch with a knee on her chest two years later.

It came to a tipping point on May 6, 2009. 

Jones was criticizing his son's performance after a basketball game. Connie intervened, and an argument quickly escalated to violence. She claimed Jones pinned her to a wall and struck her in the face with his forearm. He threatened to drown her in the pool.

Connie called police, and that resulted in a standoff with a SWAT team. When Jones surrendered, he came out with the boy in front of him — like a human shield.

Connie filed for divorce six days later. It didn't assuage her fears. 

"For as long as I can remember, he said that if I ever left him that he would kill me ..." she told Heinzelman. "That he could wait as long as he needed to ... that he would wait until I had (my guard down)."

The court had Jones involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, but according to records, he was not found to be mentally "abnormal." Pitt later performed a risk assessment on Jones. He predicted Jones's mental state was going to continue to unravel without the right treatment. 

"(Pitt said that) he was prone to violence, that he had an obsession with me and that eventually some trigger would make him do something, that he felt like he was likely to, um, do violence," Connie told the investigator. 

It made sense that Pitt was a target, Connie said. In Jones's mind, Pitt was responsible for the divorce and Jones' loss of custody of his son. 

Feldman had been Connie's divorce attorney. Jones hated Feldman. She was likely the one Jones had gone to the law firm to kill, Connie theorized. The paralegals just were the only ones in the office that afternoon. 

Connie repeatedly took out orders of protection against her ex-husband. 

The divorce was hard on their then-pre-teen son. Connie took him to a psychologist, Karen Kolbe. Levine would later sublet half of Kolbe's office. She had left early on the day Levine was killed.

Connie said she knew her ex-husband had committed the murders after recognizing the exterior of Kolbe's building while watching news coverage of the shootings. The family had just returned from vacation and quickly retreated to their second home.

Connie wondered if her ex-husband had gone to her Valley house to kill her, only to find she wasn't there.

Paulette Selmi had to be next, Connie told Heinzelman. She performed the custody evaluation and made the final call limiting Jones's contact with his son to supervised visits. 

But Connie wondered what could have set Jones off after all these years. 

Connie had been ordered to pay Jones hundreds of thousands of dollars in addition to $6,000 a month for the next five years. He lived entirely off that money.

Could this all be because he ran out of money? 

The visits between Jones and his son stopped a few years after the divorce. Connie and her son hadn't seen him in years, but she knew he was still holed away in an Extended Stay hotel in Scottsdale.

He never moved into a permanent residence after he left their home in 2009. He still drove the gold Mercedes he won in the divorce, which Connie described as his "only worldly possession."

Something must have changed recently if Jones was driven to murder, Connie speculated. 

Jones had tried to friend his son and his girlfriend on Facebook a few weeks before the shootings began. They both ignored him. 

His previous attempts to reach their son also had gone unanswered.

"I think that he is desperate, and he knows that his son is not even interested in him," Connie said. 

'I would have been one of them'

Selmi hadn't been in her Mesa office for weeks. She was in the process of moving to another state when an investigator reached her on the phone Saturday afternoon. 

"If I had been in Phoenix, I think I would have been one of them," she said. 

She immediately recalled the Jones divorce. It was the first time she saw a client attend sessions with a bodyguard. 

"I have to be honest with you, detective," Selmi said. "When I heard about Dr. Pitt and the law offices, did this case come into mind? Yes, it did."

Finding Jones

Jones's name hadn't been publicly mentioned by police, although he quickly rose to the top of the suspect list after the conversation with Connie. He was an exact match for the sketch of Pitt's killer — except he was black. 

Luckily, his gold Mercedes wasn't exactly subtle. Investigators spotted the car in surveillance footage recorded near Pitt's office both before and after the shooting. 

Investigators began scrambling to find the car early Sunday morning. They focused on  a square mile near Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard. An officer spotted the car at about 3:30 p.m. using a combination of what Lockerby described as luck, intuition and technology. 

Jones was behind the wheel.

They couldn't just pull him over and arrest him. They knew he was armed and suspected of killing multiple people. There was no way to know how he would react.  

They followed him. His killing spree was over — he just didn't know it yet.

A gun in the trash bin

Police tailed the gold Mercedes through the streets of Scottsdale throughout the afternoon and into the evening. 

An officer in an unmarked police car watched Jones stop by an apartment complex. They lost him for about 40 minutes after he left with a friend in another car. The man later told police they went to dinner before returning to the apartment, where police picked up the trail again.

Police then watched Jones eat an ice cream cone at a McDonald's before dumping a .22-cal Beretta handgun wrapped in a white grocery store bag into a Dumpster outside the restaurant. A hat matching the one depicted in the sketch of Pitt's killer was tossed into a Circle K garbage bin. 

His last stop of the night was the same Scottsdale Extended Stay hotel near 69th Place and Shea Boulevard he had occupied for nearly a decade.

Investigators settled in the parking lot for the night — waiting to see what Jones's next move would be. 

Two more dead in Fountain Hills

Cellphone data was used to place Jones in an upscale neighborhood in Fountain Hills only a few hours before police were able to find him Sunday afternoon.

The data pointed them to a two-story house on the end of an isolated cul-de-sac. There were no houses behind it, just an unobstructed desert ravine. 

A folded-up wheelchair sat outside the front door. Inside, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office deputies found the bodies of Mary Simmons and Bryon Thomas. Both were in their 70s.

Simmons and Thomas were killed sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday — possibly less than an hour before investigators found Jones.

“We believe we picked him up after he was coming back from Fountain Hills," Lockerby said.

Neither Simmons nor Thomas was involved in the divorce case. They never worked in the legal field. There was no immediate connection to Jones, other than the fact that Thomas had owned the gun Jones tossed in the trash.

It was enough to tie Jones to the murder. Authorities began planning an arrest. 

'Exposing lowlifes'

It wasn't hard to find the videos once investigators had Jones's name. They were the only items posted on his shell of a Facebook page.

The 18 videos posted to a YouTube channel titled "exposing lowlife" outlined the conspiracy against a nameless narrator. He only identified himself as the ex-husband of Connie Jones.

One video showed a taped interview between his ex-wife and Pitt as the narrator commentated. Another featured a long, rambling letter to his estranged son.

Jones spent another video insisting Connie abused their son and had multiple affairs, yet she was the one attempting to make him look violent and paranoid so she could have full custody of their child. The camera focused on a blank, white faceless mask. 

All 10 hours of video focused on one point: Jones had been robbed of his son.

The videos were all uploaded in the three weeks before the shooting began. The last one was posted on May 25, six days before Pitt was gunned down. 

Lockerby said they knew this was Jones. They took whatever they could get from the videos to strengthen their case to arrest him. 

Nearly 200 miles away, a Scottsdale officer gathered DNA from Connie Jones and her son. He traveled by helicopter in the middle of the night before rushing the swabs back for testing. 

Their DNA was compared to the partial DNA profile found on a shell casing left at the scene of Pitt's murder. 

The testing was done before dawn broke Monday. There was enough overlap in the samples to prove that whoever the killer was likely had fathered Connie's son. 

 

It was barely 5 a.m. when Scottsdale and Phoenix police began quietly evacuating the guests of the Extended Stay hotel.

Jones spotted the tactical officers and opened fire at police from a window of his second-story hotel room. 

Then, he turned the gun on himself.

Jones didn't leave behind a suicide note or a manifesto. Instead, the entire hotel room served as a strange museum to the divorce that ravaged his life. 

Police photos related to spree shooter Dwight Jones

Scottsdale Police Department photos of the scene at Dwight Lamon Jones' Scottsdale Extended Stay hotel room near 69th Street and Shea Boulevard. After a bitter divorce and failed years-long custody battle for his son, Jones went on a four-day shooting spree from May 31 to June 3, 2018, that left six people dead, before taking his own life.

Scottsdale Police Department photos of the scene at Dwight Lamon Jones' Scottsdale Extended Stay hotel room near 69th Street and Shea Boulevard. After a bitter divorce and failed years-long custody battle for his son, Jones went on a four-day shooting spree from May 31 to June 3, 2018, that left six people dead, before taking his own life.
© Scottsdale Police Department

Both his Mercedes and the hotel room were packed with Jones's personal items. Investigators found numerous disguises, including fake facial hair, hats, and a white mask matching the one in the YouTube videos. There were handcuffs, countless rounds of ammo, flare guns, spent shell casings and knives. 

A photograph of his son as a child was prominently displayed on the center console of the car. Two copies of The Arizona Republic — one featuring the front-page story about the killings — sat on the passenger seat. 

When he died, Jones was wearing a black shirt with the symbol for the comic book character The Punisher. A hat, wallet and another shirt with the same white skull were found in the hotel room.

He also had two comic books about the character and a DVD of the 2004 movie. The character exacts revenge on those responsible for the death of his wife and children.

Two guns — a semi-automatic rifle and a Glock 22 — were in the hotel room. The Glock matched shell casings found at the first three murders. 

Multiple plastic boxes in the hotel room were filled with pages of court documents and scrap papers bearing his notes from the divorce case. 

On one envelope, Jones had scrawled the names of the four people he would later attempt to kill: Selmi, Kolbe, Pitt and Feldman.

In the end, only one of his intended targets died.

'We don't know what made him go on this murderous rampage'

Jones's death left Lockerby and other investigators with more questions than answers.

Family members and friends of Simmons were able to provide some explanation for that otherwise unrelated murder. Jones and Simmons apparently played tennis regularly. It's not clear whether their friendship extended beyond the tennis court.   

He apparently asked Simmons for money in the weeks leading up to the killing. She refused.

After the murder, Jones didn't take the cash from Simmons' purse or the thousands of dollars worth of electronics in the house.

"Our only conclusion was he was upset with the fact they wouldn't give him any money," Lockerby said. "... We didn’t know if he just missed it — if robbery was a motive and he just did a poor job of searching, or if he just did it out of pure vengeance."

Lockerby believes Jones was running out of money. He was regularly withdrawing up to $3,000 a month without any income coming in. 

There weren't any obvious things that might have triggered the killings nearly 10 years after the divorce.

"We don't know what made him decide to go on this murderous rampage," Lockerby said.

There were indications Connie and their son also may have been intended targets. Police never found anything definitively proving that was his goal, but Lockerby said it fit Jones's profile. 

That final encounter never came, though. There's no way to know whether that was because of sheer luck or Jones intentionally let them survive.

"His death is the best thing to come out of this ordeal," Connie told The Republic last year. "I hope that where he is going, he will finally get what he deserves."

Editor's note: This story was compiled using police reports, body-camera footage, crime scene photos, 911 calls, previous reporting by The Republic and interviews with Scottsdale police.

Republic reporter Michael Kiefer contributed to this report.

a close up of text on a white surface: A board is shown linking Dwight Jones to six victims at a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel. © Michael Chow/The Republic A board is shown linking Dwight Jones to six victims at a joint press conference at the Scottsdale Police Department Headquarters June 4, 2018. Jones, suspected of murdering six people over several days, was found dead at a Scottsdale hotel.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Four days of fear: Timeline of murder spree shooter Dwight Jones

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