Marchers remember shootings
January 17, 2002
With a portrait of his slain daughter overhead, Nick Wilcox gestured toward the entrance to the Nevada County Department of Behavioral Health Services.
“As you can imagine, it’s not easy standing here today. One year and two days ago, Laura was brought through that door in a blue body bag,” he told a crowd of roughly 400 Saturday.
Laura Wilcox was a temporary receptionist on holiday break from college when she was killed Jan. 10, 2001. Caregiver Pearlie Mae Feldman also died in the gunfire, and Laura’s supervisor, Judith Edzards, was critically injured.
The shootings resumed at Lyon’s Restaurant, where manager Mike Markle died and cook Richard Senuty was wounded.
The gatherers marched the shooting sequence in reverse – 3.3 miles from the restaurant to Behavioral Health – to remember the victims and draw attention to mental health care and gun control. Nick Wilcox and his wife, Amanda, organized the event.
“It took the death of Laura, Pearlie Mae Feldman and Mike Markle before Scott Thorpe could get adequate treatment,” Nick Wilcox said, referring to the 41-year-old Smartville man and former Behavioral Health client accused of the killings.
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Friends, neighbors, classmates, politicians, advocates and shooting survivors rallied. Edzards joined the start of the march, but she can’t bring herself to get closer to Behavioral Health than Banner Lava Cap Road, Nick Wilcox said.
Daisy Switzer joined in a wheelchair. The former Behavioral Health intern was seriously injured jumping from a second-floor window to escape the gunfire. Always curious how far she dropped, she measured the window’s height Saturday using a balloon and string.
“Twenty-one feet,” she said, after going home to measure the string.
Jean Greenberg of Grass Valley didn’t know any of the victims but has long supported gun control, having lost a cousin in Palo Alto to a random shooting. She carried a fluorescent-green Auburn Gun Show sign she’d circled and crossed with a marker.
“I couldn’t make anything as strong. This is how I feel. I never got to express my feelings about the killings,” she said.
On the Pine Street bridge in Nevada City, she said, a pickup driver cussed at her and veered her way.
Other passing motorists issued honks of encouragement.
Four students from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where Laura Wilcox was a sophomore, marched. At least three women from the Million Mom March’s Sacramento Valley chapter also took part.
At the Behavioral Health offices, Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said California failed to care for the mentally ill after its asylums were opened in the 1960s. 3Opened,² in this sense, meant the doors were opened and the mentally ill were free to go.
A recent $65 million program serving 6,000 patients in 40 counties and cities has shown results, he said, but it’s “barely the tip of the iceberg. The state has not fulfilled its promise.”
On gun control, Amanda Wilcox called it disturbing that 11 of Thorpe’s 12 guns weren’t registered to him. Her daughter supported gun control and had written a persuasive essay on the issue while at Nevada Union High School.
“It seems the ultimate irony,” she said, “that someone who cared about that issue and believed so strongly in peace and nonviolence would be the victim of handgun violence.”
She also recounted the last time seeing her daughter. She dropped Laura off at Behavioral Health and told her, “Have a nice day at work, sweetie.”
Before heading in, Laura asked to be picked up early, so she could get in her daily six-mile run before dark.
“Well, she can’t run now,” Amanda Wilcox said. “We have to run for her. We have to carry her torch for her.”
The Wilcoxes haven’t decided whether to make the march an annual event.