Brother: Layoff Reason For Father/Son Deaths — (Worcester Telegram & Gazette)

SSRI Ed note: Divorced man on antidepressants remains depressed, becomes suicidal, shoots and kills his son and himself. Frequent job transfers blamed.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)

Saturday, November 17, 1990

Author: John J. Monahan; Lynne Tolman; Staff Reporters

A state mental health official mailed a letter to his brother asking him “to take care of things” before he apparently shot his 8-year-old son to death and then turned the gun on himself, the brother said last night.

Brian J. Curtin, 40, whose body was found yesterday along with his son’s in their home at 116 Winifred Ave. near Newton Square, was upset about being laid off by the Department of Mental Health, said his brother, Stephen Curtin of Londonderry, N.H.

“It was his job,” Stephen Curtin said. “Being changed around and kicked down a couple of times.”

However, DMH spokeswoman Mary McGeown said the Oct. 12 layoff had been rescinded and Curtin, a housing coordinator, was being transferred from the Worcester office to a similar position in Westboro at the same salary. It was to be the third time Curtin switched offices this year.

Dr. Jerome Fielding, medical examiner, said the deaths occurred sometime Monday or Tuesday. The boy, Justin Curtin, whose death was determined to be a homicide, died from two gunshots to the head. The father died from a single gunshot to the head and the death was deemed a suicide, Dr. Fielding said.

Fielding said the shots were fired from the same gun. Police said they found a .38-caliber revolver at the house and believe it was the weapon used in the deaths. Police Capt. James Gallagher said it appeared Curtin shot his son and then committed suicide.


Detective Lt. John J. McKiernan Jr. said a suicide note was found in the home, but police would not disclose its contents.

“There were a whole series of events occurring in his life. There were other factors” besides his job, McKiernan said.

Fitchburg City Councilor Annie DiMartino, a social worker who said she knew Curtin for eight years, said he suffered from depression and took anti-depressant medication.

Linda Curtin, 40, of 300 Stafford St., Leicester, Curtin’s former wife and Justin’s mother, declined to be interviewed last night. Her landlady and upstairs neighbor, Maryjane Brockway, said Ms. Curtin “loved her son deeply” and was devastated by the deaths.

Mrs. Brockway said Ms. Curtin had told her when she moved in three years ago that her former husband had custody of their son. She said Brian and Linda Curtin had lived together with their son at 116 Winifred Ave. before they were divorced.

Ms. Curtin had gone to court several times seeking permission to see her son more and did see him “more and more in the past year,” Mrs. Brockway said.


She said earlier visits were not in the mother’s home, but the child had visited there recently. “She just lived for the day that he came to the house for three hours,” Mrs. Brockway said.

Mrs. Brockway’s husband, Bruce, said Ms. Curtin had pictures of Justin all over her walls and went to all the boy’s soccer games. Ms. Curtin works at Imperial Distributors Inc. in Auburn.

Stephen Curtin, who was visiting Linda Curtin last night, said he got a phone call Wednesday from “someone from somewhere” trying to reach his brother. “For Brian not to get back to someone in two days for a job-related situation” made Curtin suspect something was wrong, he said. He declined to elaborate on the phone call.

He said he got his brother’s letter “asking me to take care of things” when he got home after 10:30 Wednesday night and “had sort of a hunch” that something awful might have happened. He said he called Worcester police about 11:30 p.m. and they investigated promptly.

He said police called him back five times, asking for more information and keys to his brother’s house, before they broke down the back door. He said police notified him of the deaths about three hours after his initial call.

“It was a nightmare,” Curtin said. He said he did not know from the letter what police would find.

Police said the house was dark when they arrived and the curtains were drawn. Newspapers as far back as Tuesday were piled up at the front door, detectives said. Police discovered the bodies in separate bedrooms, McKiernan said.

Curtin, formerly a city housing official, worked for the Department of Mental Health in Fitchburg until about three months ago, according to a supervisor there. Then he became a regional housing coordinator for the DMH in Grafton, Ms. McGeown said. She said he worked out of the Worcester office the past few weeks because budget cuts forced the closing of the Grafton office.

Ms. McGeown said Curtin was given a layoff notice Oct. 12, but was eligible for a similar position in Westboro and was not taken off the payroll. She said he was told Nov. 9 he would be reassigned as housing developer for the Metro-West region and met with employees in the Westboro office that day, she said.


“He was very smart, very talented,” said David Higgins, director of the Worcester Area Mental Health Center. “It was too bad he did not seek help. He was bright and had a lot to offer. I would have liked to have had him on my own team anytime,” Higgins said.

Lee Hammel, Timothy J. Connolly, Allison K. Jones and Pamela Hayes Sacks contributed to this story.

Record Number: 9011174339
Copyright (c) 1990 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.