05/21/2007

Courthouse sniper's wife found dead

Idaho shooter spoke of killing others

By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
The Associated Press

MOSCOW, Idaho — A gunman suspected of killing three people and himself said during a court-ordered mental evaluation that if he committed suicide, he would try to take a large number of people with him, police said Monday.


Idaho State Police Chaplain Gary Young, right, hugs Latah County employee, as other attendees hug before the start of a press conference, Monday, in Moscow, Idaho. Police released details about the killings they said Jason Hamilton committed late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, including the killing of his wife, Crystal Hamilton. (AP Photo/Dean Hare)
Three months after that conversation with a psychiatrist, authorities say, Jason Hamilton shot and killed his wife at her home, then toted two assault rifles to a parking lot and fired a barrage of bullets into an emergency dispatch center across from a courthouse.

A police officer rushing to the scene late Saturday was killed, and a deputy and a civilian who tried to help were wounded. Investigators said Hamilton, 36, also killed sexton Paul Bauer, 62, in an office of the nearby First Presbyterian Church early Sunday.

Officers who stormed the church hours later found a rifle and ammunition next to Hamilton's body in the sanctuary.

Hamilton had a history of violence, and a judge ordered him evaluated after he tried to kill himself, Assistant Police Chief David Duke said. Hamilton told the psychiatrist of his suicidal and homicidal thoughts during the conversation at a Lewiston hospital in February, Duke said. It wasn't clear if the psychiatrist's report was sent to a judge or what other court action was taken, if any.

Authorities charged Hamilton with felony strangulation in January 2006 in a case involving a girlfriend he had while separated from his wife. Hamilton was convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery of the girlfriend, who survived, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 90 days suspended, Duke said.

Hamilton was in court again last Tuesday for a probation violation, but the case was delayed until next month, Duke said. Details of the violation and the underlying offense were not immediately clear.

Hamilton knew Bauer, who lived at the church, from his job cleaning First Presbyterian for a private maintenance service, Duke said.

Hamilton's wife, 30-year-old Crystal Hamilton, was a janitor at the courthouse, authorities said. Her body, with a gunshot wound to the head, was found Sunday at her home, Latah County Sheriff Wayne Rausch said.

Police found 125 shell casings from two types of assault rifles at the courthouse and the church, Duke said. Officers did not return fire, he said.

Lee Newbill, the first officer at the scene, had served with the police department since March 2001 and is the city's first officer killed in the line of duty.

Deputy Brannon Jordon, a 17-year veteran, was shot as he took cover behind a tree after pulling Newbill out of the line of fire, Duke said. Jordon was upgraded from serious to fair condition with multiple gunshot wounds and was expected to be released from the hospital Monday, Rausch said.

The injured civilian was identified Monday by his mother as Pete Husmann, 20, a senior UI mechanical engineering student from Coeur d'Alene. She said he was shot three times as he rushed from his apartment to render aid after hearing the gunshots. He was in serious but stable condition and was to undergo another surgery Monday, she said.

Moscow, home of the University of Idaho, is located 80 miles south of Spokane, Wash., and surrounded by vast farmland. Streets in the area had been barricaded and residents had been told to stay inside. Graduation ceremonies at the university were just a week ago.

 

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