To view original article click here
By Kathy Sanders, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Updated: Tuesday, Sep. 21, 1999 at 08:16 CDT
FORT WORTH — A doctor had prescribed the anti-depressant drug Prozac for Larry Gene Ashbrook, but investigators are unsure whether he had been taking it when he killed seven people and then himself in a southwest Fort Worth church last week, police said yesterday.
Fort Worth police Lt. Mark Krey, who is heading the investigation into the largest mass shooting in the city’s history, said police found a Prozac vial with Ashbrook’s name and want to ask doctors why it was prescribed.
Krey said Ashbrook, 47, may have slipped into insanity after his 85-year-old father died in July.
“The level of paranoia within his life had advanced to an extreme stage,” Krey said. “We’re investigating the possibility that with the death of his father, Mr. Ashbrook stopped taking medication. We believe when he lost his father, who was his anchor to reality and his caretaker to ensure he took his medication, he lost any connection to reality.”
Also yesterday, police said a homemade pipe bomb exploded in Wedgwood Baptist Church with enough force that it sent a piece of shrapnel hurtling the sanctuary.
But rather than blasting out into a sanctuary where more than 150 worshippers were taking part in a youth service, most of the shrapnel shot toward the ceiling and then rained down. No one was seriously injured by the shrapnel.
“We are very blessed in the manner in which it detonated … or it would have caused serious bodily injury,” Krey said.
Prozac is commonly used to treat various forms of clinical depression, including depression in children, as well as bulimia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Dr. Peter Kowlaski, a psychiatrist in private practice in Fort Worth and former medical director for Mental Health- Mental Retardation Services of Tarrant County, said the medical community generally views Prozac as a good anti- depressant that does not contribute to, or prevent, violent behavior.
“The person who is ill will sometimes act out violently, but most people with psychiatric illnesses are not likely to act violently,” he said. “Those who do most often do evil independent of their psychiatric conditions.”
Police found the Prozac bottle in Ashbrook’s Forest Hill home. FBI officials said they also found nine vials of prescription drugs for Jack Ashbrook, who died after a battle with cancer, as well as a diary in which the father documented his medication, said spokeswoman Marjorie Poch.
“The writing changed in the last couple of weeks of the diary. It’s only speculation, but he [Larry Ashbrook] may have started taking his father’s medication,” she said. “Either that or he started recording when his father took the pills for him.”
On Wednesday night, Ashbrook walked into the Wedgwood church, where a youth rally was under way, and began shooting people, police said.
Killed were Kristi Beckel, 14; Shawn Brown, 23; Susan Kimberly Jones, 23; Cassandra Griffin, 14; Joseph “Joey” Ennis, 14; Sydney Browning, 36; and Justin Ray, 17. Seven others were injured.
The final three victims were laid to rest yesterday, but Ashbrook’s body remained unclaimed at the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Aaron Ashbrook, his brother, said the family is completing funeral arrangements, but declined to comment further.
“I think there probably has been more said than there needs to be, and a lot of it’s untrue,” he said.
He declined to elaborate.
“It wouldn’t make any difference,” he said. “I think the damage has already been done.”
Investigators sorted information yesterday from nearly 70 depositions taken from people the night of the shooting, reinterviewed the wounded and tried to trace Ashbrook’s final, fatal steps.
“Investigators are going through a number of depositions to determine the exact sequence of events,” said homicide Sgt. Dave Loftis. “We want to know, first of all, specifically what happened and how everything went down that day.”
But the answer to the most- asked questions — what set Ashbrook off and why did he choose Wedgwood — may never come.
“I don’t have any motive right now,” Loftis said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever have an answer to those questions. If we can, we certainly will get them. It’s like any of those senseless acts of violence — there aren’t any answers. And can any motive explain it and make sense of it?”
In his writings, Larry Ashbrook details a vast, unspecified conspiracy against him by law enforcement agencies and others. His brother described him to Wise County sheriff’s deputies as a paranoid schizophrenic. But the state mental health system said last week that it had no record of any contact with Ashbrook.
Krey said Ashbrook apparently was such a loner that few people have been found to help explain his activities.
“I believe we won’t find anybody because there is nobody to find. And that is consistent with the mental illness he appeared to be afflicted with,” he said.
Inside the church, Ashbrook fired all six rounds from a .380- caliber semiautomatic handgun, and then fired up to 50 more shots from a Ruger 9 mm semiautomatic pistol, officials said.
Six of the seven people who died were killed by gunshot wounds in the head, autopsy reports show. The seventh was shot in the back.
Ashbrook shot himself with the Ruger, police said. He was apparently alive in a back pew when paramedics rushed into the sanctuary, but was pronounced dead a short time later, police said.
Justin Ray and a woman videotaped Ashbrook’s rampage, police said. Officials in Forest Hill said Ashbrook may also have made a futile effort to contaminate the city’s water system.
“He put concrete in the commodes and, working for the city, I wanted to make sure he didn’t do something else,” Public Works Director Michael Duehring
“I wanted to make sure he did not contaminate our water system. I can’t go any further than that and tell you what he did, but he didn’t do any damage.”
FBI officials inspected plumbing in Ashbrook’s home Thursday but did not consider the threat serious, Poch said.
“The agent said it looked like he was just trying to mess up the inside of the house,” she said. “The agent who was out there said he had ripped off the shower head and neck and put one of those paper cones and a quart of motor oil to back down into the pipes. He said it was stuck in there still.”
Staff writers Bob Mahlburg and Carolyn Poirot contributed to this report.