Top 10 Stories of 2011: No. 1 — SLO County ends year with 5 homicides

Mental illness might have played a part in three of the incidents

nwilson@thetribunenews.comDecember 31, 2011 

Within days of treatment at a psychiatric facility, a 34-year-old San Luis Obispo man with bipolar disorder violently lashed out at his concerned mother allegedly shooting her to death.

The shooting of Karen Shumey that led to the arrest of Christopher Shumey in September marked the third high-profile murder of 2011 involving a suspect with mental illness.

Two separate stabbings in Paso Robles also may have involved mentally unstable individuals. Paso Robles police tied a killing in March at a laundry on Spring Street to John Frederick Woody, a 28-year-old San Jose resident, who received court-ordered psychiatric treatment.

And after an August murder at the Farmhouse Motel in Paso Robles, police arrested four people. One of them was deemed unfit to stand trial because of mental incompetency. The case is believed to be drug-related.

“We have so few homicides in the county, it’s hard to say that the murders that happened this year have any kind of trend,” said Paso Robles police Lt. Ty Lewis. “But the local cases in which mental illness may have contributed definitely show an interesting fact pattern.”

There were five alleged murders in 2011.

The year’s cases trailed the killings of two sisters in Santa Margarita on Christmas Day in 2010 linked to a diagnosed schizophrenic. Andrew Downs, 21, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity after being charged with those fatal shootings.

Lewis said those who commit homicides exhibit extreme behavior, often with psychological factors at play.

In past years, police have discovered that many murder suspects have had a mental condition at some point in their lives, Lewis said.

No one has been charged in two of the alleged murders that took place in 2011 in the county. Gabriel Salgado was a 17-year-old victim in an Oceano shooting that police think may be gang-related. Charles Lavenson was found beaten to death for unknown reasons while hiking in San Luis Obispo.

As for Christopher Shumey, who’d spent time in a Santa Barbara psychiatric facility and took a vacation to Jamaica shortly before allegedly shooting his mother, police have gathered a good deal of information.

According to the police report, Shumey told police “he couldn’t kill himself, he just needed somebody to die. He said he was angry at himself, his mother and his situation.” Shumey has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a second arraignment Thursday.

Like the Shumey case, the court proceedings for the other cases likely will take months, if not years to conclude, and remain in various stages of progress.

Woody, 28, faces a preliminary hearing Jan. 19 and has pleaded not guilty to charges that he stabbed 46-year-old Martin McWilliams, a stranger to him, 22 times at Paso Robles Laundromat on Spring Street.

Woody received treatment at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County to restore his ability to understand court hearings and help his lawyer in his defense.

John Wesley Barrett, 41, faces murder charges in the stabbing death of Robert Kenichi Uyeno, who was found dead at the Farmhouse Motel in Paso Robles. Barrett must undergo treatment before his court case resumes.

Three other defendants accused in Uyeno’s killing — Tabatha Brown, Alfonso “Pancho” Fierros and Jennifer Velten — have pleaded not guilty and face a pre-preliminary hearing Thursday.

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