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By SUZANNE MOORE, Staff Writer
PLATTSBURGH James Scharpf suffered from post-traumatic-stress disorder and took anti-depressants, according to former girlfriend Darcy Wright.
Tuesday, the Mineville woman mourned the man who shot and killed State Trooper Lawrence Gleason, Amanda Olcott and then himself.
“There was a good side to him,” she said, still stunned by the tragedy.
Mineville resident Shelley Maye grew up with Scharpf and felt compelled to talk about him, too, even as she ached for the pain of all the families suffering because of his actions.
“If you were on the side of the road with a flat tire, Jamie was the one who would stop and help,” she said.
Scharpf was “outgoing and funny, a party animal,” Maye said. But she’d witnessed his dark side.
“If Jamie drank, it helped to contribute to his behavior,” she said. “I’ve seen him go off the wall.”
At the same time, Maye added, “he was going to (Alcoholics Anonymous) two, three times a week; he was going to church.
“It was like he was aching for help and reaching out for it.”
Scharpf’s emotional instability seemed a product of his experiences during his stint as a U.S. Marine.
According to Wright, who began dating the man when she was 15, he’d been hospitalized in the military with a severe head injury after being hit with a skateboard.
His post-traumatic-stress disorder evolved from that incident, she said.
“He was very depressed,” she said. “He was very emotional; he would cry a lot.”
Scharpf never married and had no children, Wright said.
An excellent carpenter, he built a house in the Moriah woods, where she lived with him for about four years, with four rottweilers as pets.
“He gave me the world,” Wright said, telling how Scharpf had been a close friend of her father, the late Raymond Wright.
“Jamie went to the prom with me,” she said. “Even though he was so much older; he didn’t care.
“He bought me all my vehicles, paid for my schooling.
“When my dad died, (Jamie) was here.”
And though his temper showed if he’d been drinking, Wright said, never did he threaten her, never was she afraid of him.
“Not once in seven years was he in trouble for any of that,” she said.
Their relationship ended amicably, said Wright, who’s now 24.
“He had been my first boyfriend, and he wanted me to experience other stuff,” she said.
She remembers talking to Scharpf soon after he’d begun dating Olcott.
“He said he met her at AA,” she said. “He told me they were doing really good, and they were happy.
“Yes, I feel bad for her,” Wright said of Olcott. “And for the trooper. But I just wanted people to know about Jamie.”
Maye didn’t know much about Scharpf and Olcott’s relationship but is certain there’s much more to the story than anyone will ever know.
“It?s not just as cut and dried that he opened fire and killed these people and himself.”
When emotional stress becomes too hard to bear, she said, “I truly believe there has to be a point where you’re not you …”
Three years ago, Scharpf was a pallbearer for Maye’s brother, who had died in a tragic accident.
Scharpf was a big man, one who might not, at first glance, seem all that sensitive, Maye said. So she was particularly struck by what he told her that day.
“He said, I’ll carry him with love,” she said.
Now, she said, “I just remember the kindness. There had to be something that pushed him over the edge.”
Maye thinks, too, about how the system may have failed Scharpf and Olcott.
“If there was intervention sooner …”
Wright had seen Scharpf just last week with Olcott.
“She was bringing groceries in; he was plowing the driveway,” she said. “All happy-go-lucky.”
She has trouble reconciling that image with the events of Monday, except that, she said, he did have trouble when women broke up with him. “He got attached,” she said.
Wright thinks Scharpf had just learned about Olcott’s relationship with William Boyle. “I bet he just couldn’t handle that.”
Suzanne Moore can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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