Nationally renowned forensic psychiatrist and member of the Valley’s Jewish community, Dr. Steven Pitt, was the first person killed in a one-man murder spree that spanned Phoenix, Scottsdale and Fountain Hills over several days, leaving six people dead. The suspected gunman, 56-year-old Dwight Lamon Jones, killed himself Monday morning as Phoenix and Scottsdale police closed in on him at an Extended Stay America hotel in Scottsdale. In a press conference Monday afternoon, Scottsdale Police Commander Rich Slavin said ballistics, DNA evidence, surveillance tape, a tip from a member of the public and information from an almost 10-year-old divorce settlement have linked all six murders.
Pitt, 59, was shot and killed outside his office in North Phoenix on Thursday, May 31. A witness at the scene was able to give Phoenix Police a bare-bones description that produced a composite sketch. Pitt had advised on high-profile cases involving JonBenet Ramsey, the Columbine High School massacre, the Jodie Arias case, and the “Baseline Killer,” who was later convicted of nine murders.
It has not yet been confirmed which synagogue Pitt was a member of, but in 2006, Jewish News ran a notice of his son’s bar mitzvah at Temple Chai. A memorial service for Pitt was held Monday at Desert Hills Mortuary and Cemetery in Scottsdale. It was officiated by Rabbi Harold Loss of Michigan, where Pitt was born and raised, according to the Arizona Republic. Pitt is survived by two sons.
On Friday, June 1, less than 24 hours after Pitt’s killing, two paralegals, Laura Anderson and Veleria Sharp, were shot at Burt Feldman Grenier, the Scottsdale law firm where they worked. Sharp ran from the scene before collapsing and later died at an area hospital. Anderson died at the scene of the shooting.
While Scottsdale Police were investigating the Sharp and Anderson killings, Phoenix Police contacted them and the departments soon found ballistic evidence connecting the women’s murders to that of Pitt. In addition, Phoenix Police had found DNA evidence at the scene of Pitt’s slaying.
Just after midnight on Saturday, June 2, the body of psychologist Marshall Levine was found in his Scottsdale office. Police were called to the scene when Levine’s girlfriend, having not heard from him all day Friday, went to his office and discovered the body. Again, ballistic evidence linked Levine’s shooting to the first three murders.
As police continued their investigations, Slavin said police received a tip from a member of the public that evening, which by Sunday, June 3, led them to pinpoint Jones as their primary suspect.
Police spent June 3 trying to locate Jones, who was driving a gold Mercedes, when they caught sight of him in Fountain Hills at around 3:20 p.m. and began following him until 10 p.m., when Jones dropped a bag in a trash can in Hayden and Scottsdale roads. Police retrieved the bag to find a .22-caliber pistol — not the kind used in the first four killings.
As the chase for Jones continued, police located some of his relatives in Northern Arizona and Phoenix Police, with the help of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department, were able to match the DNA found at the scene of Pitt’s death to a Jones’ family member.
But the extent of the carnage still had not been fully discovered. Early Monday morning, concerned that Jones’ vehicle had been spotted at a residence in Fountain Hills one to two hours before Scottsdale Police caught his trail, Maricopa Sheriff’s deputies went to the home and found the bodies of Mary Simmons and Bryon Thomas. Slavin said the .22-caliber pistol Jones threw away belonged to Thomas.
Tracking Jones’ movements through traffic and surveillance cameras, police located Jones at a hotel in Scottsdale. They had started evacuating people in surrounding rooms when police heard seven to eight gunshots. A police tactical team made its way into Jones’ room where he was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police did not fire their weapons and no police or hotel visitors were injured.
Early in the investigation, police found another connection to the first four killings beyond ballistic evidence. In 2009-2010, Jones and his now ex-wife were going through a contentious divorce. Jones had been charged by Scottsdale Police with domestic assault against his wife and son. During the divorce proceedings, Jones’ ex-wife was represented by Elizabeth Feldman, one of the partners at the law firm where Anderson and Sharp were shot. Feldman was not at the office during the shootings.
Jones was also ordered to be evaluated by Pitt, while his son was sent to another psychologist, Karen Kolbe, who shared an office with Levine. Kolbe was not in the office at the time of Levine’s killing. Police said Levine’s death was a tragic case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
A connection between Simmons and Thomas to the divorce has not been revealed by police. Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said at the Monday afternoon press conference that “others would have been harmed” had Jones not been stopped.
Pitt’s family released a statement published in the Arizona Republic thanking “the Phoenix and Scottsdale police, the FBI, ATF and others for their devotion to this case. We are also not the only ones grieving. Our hearts go out to the families of Veleria Sharp, Laura Anderson and Marshall Levine.” JN
This is a developing story.