Bee explores Laura Wilcox tragedy as 11th anniversary nears

“Scott Thorpe turned his house into a fortress in preparation for the FBI assault that was a figment of his ever-more paranoid delusions,” the Sacramento Bee is reporting.

“He draped tarps over his windows so no one could spy on him, stowed guns in each room, kept gas masks and night-vision binoculars at the ready and hesitated to talk by phone for fear the FBI was listening.

“Laura Wilcox, the 1999 valedictorian at Nevada Union High School, was home for winter break from Haverford College, where she was a sophomore and running for co-president of the student body.

“She hoped to spend spring break in Paris and was earning extra money by filling in for a week as a receptionist at the Nevada County Department of Behavioral Health, where she had worked the summer before.

“On Jan. 10, 2001, Thorpe arrived for an appointment at the county agency, which was housed in an old morgue and hospital on the outskirts of Nevada City, produced a 9 mm handgun and began firing.

“By the time he finished, three people were dead and dozens of lives were changed forever.

“Variations on that day have been repeated countless times since, at a strip mall in Tucson, an intersection in Chico, in front of a Fullerton bus depot, in the forest outside Fort Bragg, where a father’s plea for help for his mentally ill son was not heeded.

“The theme is common: severe mental illness, combined with laws that are written to protect civil liberties and ignore the reality that nobody chooses to be psychotic. Too often, those laws permit authorities and the rest of us to abdicate responsibility to help people who are incapable of helping themselves.

“The department that purported to offer care to Thorpe was frayed and underfunded. The psychiatrist who treated him failed to respond to warnings. But the response in the aftermath of the killings was extraordinary.

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

5 thoughts on “Bee explores Laura Wilcox tragedy as 11th anniversary nears”

  1. I have worked a booth with Amanda Wilcox for the Brady Campaign and she is an amazing woman. It shows how the gun issue is a ideological issue for many people. The Brady Campaign is a very common sense approach to gun ownership.

    I support individuals owning guns but just like driving a car need to show they are mentally stable and both physically/ mentally competent on how to use and store guns correctly. Pretty common sense stuff. Where the ideology sets in are those who want complete gun bans on one side to the other extreme where any form of government regulation is described as tyranny.

  2. The new approaches to health care and the war on drugs exhibited by the Obama Administration are subtle moves in the right direction.

    We need much more comprehensive changes, but given the constraints of a political system invented when steam engines ruled we are probably doing the best we can.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!

  3. A very sad day for our community.

    The real issue is not guns, it’s a failed mental health care system and failed court system that keeps putting folks in need of mental health “help” on the streets.

    Just try to 5150 someone in Nevada County as see what happens. It’s a failed system.

    1. The system is bad enough, but after reading the entire article it would seem the psychiatrist in this case chose to ignore many urgent warnings from the case worker and the family.
      I wonder how he feels about what happened as a result.
      I was also saddened to learn that Laura Wilcox actually knew Scott Thorpe was dangerous before he showed up for his appointment.
      She warned the case worker to be careful.
      What a tragedy.

  4. There should be a law that holds gun owners responsible for any crime committed with a gun that has been stolen from their house or vehicle. A mandatory $1,000 fine for starters, would tend to keep most guns more securely locked up, and thus fewer of them would become available to criminals. Guns are treasured theft items, because they command high prices on the streets. Making them harder to get to during break-ins would make it more difficult for the unstable to get them for use.

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