Thorpe pleads guilty to murder
March 21, 2003
Scott Harlan Thorpe entered guilty pleas to three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder Thursday in Superior Court in connection with the Jan. 10, 2001, shooting rampage that shocked Nevada County.
Thorpe, 43, attended the emotionally charged hearing dressed in street clothes rather than the usual jail-issue jumpsuit. He uttered short replies to Judge Carl Bryan’s questions, saying “Yes, sir” and “Yeah, OK, all right.”
Victims’ family members wept as the hearing progressed through Thorpe’s pleas of guilty to murder charges in the shooting deaths of Pearlie Mae Feldman, Mike Markle and Laura Wilcox.
They listened as Thorpe pleaded guilty to attempting to kill two more people, Judith Edzards and Richard Senuty.
After the hearing, Thorpe didn’t make eye contact with victims’ family members as he was escorted out of the courtroom and back to the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility.
Family members of the victims lingered for half an hour after the hearing in the courtroom. The Wilcox parents chatted with Thorpe’s brother, Kent Thorpe, and his wife, Sharon.
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“Something happened that day, and we don’t have a clue,” said Sharon Thorpe, of her brother-in-law. She said she hoped people realized that Scott Thorpe was sick.
For Margie Markle, mother of slain Lyon’s Restaurant manager Mike Markle, it was her first glimpse of the man who killed her son.
“I feel like it’s the beginning of a healing process,” said Markle. “We’ve been sitting, doing nothing for two years.”
While she had skipped previous court hearings on Thorpe’s case, Markle decided to go to this one. “I guess I wanted to see him,” said Markle. “There’s a gnawing feeling I needed to see him. I need to be here for Mike.”
Amanda and Nick Wilcox, parents of Laura Wilcox, issued a written statement saying they are thankful that Thorpe changed his plea to guilty, sparing their family the distress of a criminal trial.
The Wilcoxes said they wanted to focus on their love for Laura, who was 19 when she was killed, and the values she represents. They also said it should not have taken the deaths of Laura and two others in order for Thorpe to receive adequate mental health treatment. It was apparently his anger at the county’s mental health system that prompted the grisly shootings.
The Wilcoxes and others listened as District Attorney Michael Ferguson and Public Defender Tom Anderson explained what would happen next.
Thorpe will have a trial tentatively starting May 6 to determine whether he was insane at the time of the shootings.
If found insane, Thorpe would be committed to a mental institution. He could only be released upon a psychiatrist’s finding and another hearing in Nevada City.
Anderson said he is not aware of any case in which a person convicted of homicide was released from a mental institution.
If found sane, Thorpe would receive life in prison.
Anderson said Thorpe has always accepted he was the one “made to do this.” Thorpe believed the Federal Bureau of Investigation caused him to lose control of himself, said Anderson.
Thorpe didn’t see any benefit to putting victims’ families through the facts of the murders in a trial setting, said Anderson.
Time line on shooting case
Jan. 10, 2001
? Gunshots at Nevada County Department of Behavioral Health Services kill temporary receptionist Laura Wilcox and caregiver Pearlie Mae Feldman, and critically injure supervising health technician Judith Edzards. Intern Daisy Switzer is seriously injured jumping from a second-floor window.
? More shots at Lyon’s Restaurant kill manager Mike Markle and injure cook Rick Senuty.
? Scott Harlan Thorpe of Smartville surrenders at his Mooney Flat Road home.
Jan. 12, 2001 Thorpe arraigned on three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Feb. 2, 2001 Judge John Darlington appoints two psychiatrists and a doctor to determine if Thorpe, a Behavioral Health client, is mentally competent to assist in his own defense.
March 31, 2001 Darlington finds Thorpe incompetent. Doctors use “schizophrenic,” “delusional” and “paranoid” to describe Thorpe.
May 10, 2001 Thorpe sent to Atascadero State Hospital.
June 12, 2001 Thorpe transferred to Napa State Hospital.
August 2001 A grand jury returns murder indictments against Thorpe. District Attorney Mike Ferguson seals the documents.
Nov. 15, 2001 A Napa State Hospital psychiatrist reports Thorpe is still incompetent and must stay for treatment at least another six months.
October 2002 Thorpe ruled competent to stand trial.
November 2002 Thorpe enters plea of innocent by reason of insanity.
March 20, 2003 Thorpe pleads guilty to charges of murder and attempted murder, averting trial.