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Man who took hostages became obsessed after wife lost jobs, family says

Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX- A man who held nine people hostage inside a National Labor Relations Board office became obsessed after his wife lost two jobs and showed signs of mental instability, family said.

The mother of George Curran said Friday her son's behavior had changed dramatically over the past 18 months, but she didn't know what to do about it.

"I started wondering, is he schizophrenic? He would say his phones were all bugged. There was all this paranoia," said Maryjane Ellsworth.

She was so used to his strange behavior that when he called her Thursday in Springfield, Mass., and said he had hostages, she didn't believe him and asked to speak to one of them.

"I thought he was lying. He's not the violent type," she said.

Curran, 42, pulled a gun during a legal proceeding and took five men and four women hostage inside a hearing room on the 18th floor of a high-rise. He was armed with a semiautomatic pistol, a revolver and a knife, according to police.

None of the hostages were harmed during the seven-hour standoff, which ended peacefully late Thursday.

Curran's wife said her husband became increasingly fixated on "getting justice" following her 1998 dismissal as a federal detention officer and her 2004 dismissal as an airport screener. She said she was unfairly fired for what she characterized as minor infractions, and Curran quit his longtime job as a public bus driver to focus on her case.

"He really felt they did something wrong to me," Sandra Curran said. "He just wanted his day in court to address this."

She said he contacted everyone from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to local police. The couple tried filing complaints directly with the NLRB, which the agency said were dismissed.

They also filed a federal lawsuit on their own. The case, which is pending, lists numerous government agencies and alleges racketeering.

Eventually, Curran's wife said his never-ending push to have the case heard started to wear on their relationship. So this week, Sandra Curran said she decided to spend a few days away with her daughter.

"Knowing I wasn't going to be back home, maybe he thought he had lost me," she said.

Kurt Altman, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, said Curran's reaction to the dismissal of his wife's complaints "probably wasn't the best."

But if nothing else, he said Curran would finally have a chance to be heard.

"He should have his day in court and he's going to get that," Altman said.

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