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Slaying suspect in court

DOUG MATTSON, The Union

Scott Thorpe may have been hunting for a Nevada County psychiatrist when he allegedly stormed the Behavioral Health Department and gunned down three people, according to murder charges filed at Thorpe’s arraignment Friday.

The 40-year-old Smartville man looked impassive and wore a bulletproof vest, handcuffs and leg shackles as sheriff’s officers shuffled him into the courtroom in Nevada City.

He cracked a brief smile while talking with Chief Public Defender Thomas Anderson but otherwise looked ahead without expression.

“Yes,” he told Judge Carl F. Bryan II, he understood his rights.

“I have an attorney,” he said about his legal representation.

He earlier ignored a TV cameraman’s question: “Do you have anything to say, Scott?”

District Attorney Mike Ferguson charged Thorpe with three counts each of murder and attempted murder for Wednesday’s shootings at the Behavioral Health Department in Nevada City and Lyon’s Restaurant near Grass Valley.

Thorpe is accused of shooting five people and killing three, but none of the gunfire victims is Dr. George Heitzman.

Ferguson said he named the psychiatrist as an attempted-murder victim because evidence showed he was in the building – locked in his office – and Thorpe was there to shoot him.

Ferguson didn’t say if Heitzman had treated Thorpe, who friends and family said suffered from depression, anxiety and agoraphobia – a fear of being in public places. Thorpe made monthly visits to the office.

Heitzman’s lawyer, Glenn Kottcamp of Nevada City, said the psychiatrist wouldn’t discuss his relationship with Thorpe due to doctor-client privilege.

“(Reporters) are bugging him, and he’s getting fed up,” Kottcamp said.

Before Thorpe’s arraignment, Anderson spoke briefly with his client.

“He’s troubled,” Anderson said.

When asked how, he replied, “With the obvious circumstances.”

Given the publicity, Anderson said he will strongly consider seeking a change of venue should the case go to trial.

Ferguson, who supports capital punishment, filed the charges in a way allowing him to pursue the death penalty. But that decision is a long way off, he stressed, and he plans to get defense input before then.

Most watching the brief hearing were reporters, court workers and sheriff’s officers, but with a few exceptions.

Elaine Bernie of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition said her office has received numerous calls regarding the shooting. She called it an aggravating factor for many victims suffering their own crises.

Josh Lantz was in the courtroom for two reasons.

A 1999 Nevada Union High School graduate, he now studies criminal justice at the University of Nevada at Reno and thought attending would be educational.

But “first and foremost,” he said, “I feel I owe it to Laura.”

Nineteen-year-old Laura Wilcox, a temporary Behavioral Health worker, was fatally shot at the office while filling in for vacationing workers.

She and Lantz were friends at NU, where she was a valedictorian who participated in student government and a child-abuse prevention program.

“She was a really good girl,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Keith Royal said the investigation is ongoing. Detectives await the results of autopsies and ballistics tests and are conducting more photo lineups for would-be witnesses.

Thorpe has yet to enter a plea. That’s scheduled for Feb. 1, when a preliminary hearing will also be set. He’s being held at the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility without bail.


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