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Victim Statement to the Nevada County Superior Court

June 6, 2003
For the record, my name is Nick Wilcox. I am the father of Laura Wilcox. Amanda has
tried to paint a picture of who Laura was and to convey some sense of the harm that has
been inflicted on our family.
I will begin by relating to you my last conversation with Laura. On the evening of
January 8, Laura sat curled in the blue chair by the woodstove and told me about the
gloomy conditions at the Behavioral Health Department.
After one day on the job, she observed deterioration in staff moral since the previous
summer. She noted that department had no director, there were vacancies on the
psychiatric staff and the prospects of filling these positions were dismal due to lack of
funds. She had felt during her summer employment that patients were not always treated
with respect and that this attitude was even more pronounced in January. Treating people
with respect was an issue of great importance to Laura.
Laura decided to write a letter to the County Supervisors describing the situation at
mental health. She never got the chance because the deteriorated system that she
complained of caused her death less than 36 hours later.
We learned during the trial about the extent of Scott Thorpes illness. All experts agreed
that Thorpe was severely and persistently mentally ill and that his condition was getting
progressively worse, in part, due to his refusal to take appropriate medication. According
to Dr. Scott, he was in the top one percent of cases he had reviewed or evaluated. In fact,
he is the only person that Dr. Scott had ever concluded to be NGI.
We learned that Thorpe had been evaluated for involuntary commitment under Welfare
and Institutions Code section 5150 in July of 2000.
We know that Dr. Heitzman wrote in his medical records prior to the evaluation that
Thorpe was potentially dangerous and in need of hospitalization.
We know that people at mental health were aware that Thorpe possessed an arsenal of
weapons and would use them if provoked.
We know that Thorpe was infatuated with Pam Chase and that Chase perceived this
behavior as a personal threat. For whatever reason, Ms. Chases superiors refused to
involve law enforcement and asked her not to contact the police.
A determination was made not to commit Thorpe, presumably because the crisis workers
could not trick Thorpe into saying that he was going to harm a specific person, on a
specific day, at a specific place. We believe that the real reason that he was not
committed was the unwritten policy not to involuntarily hospitalize clients in order to
conserve funds. At least in theory, had Thorpe been committed, his weapons would have
been confiscated and Laura might still be alive today.

We know that Scott Thorpes brother and sister-in-law were aware of his deteriorating
condition in the weeks prior to January 10, and had been trying to convince Behavioral
Health to intervene. The calls were not returned and still there was no intervention.
I believe that the tragic shootings that occurred January 10 were both predicable and
preventable. It is absolutely beyond belief that a man as mentally ill as Scott Thorpe was
considered not to be a danger to himself or to others. It seems that in Nevada County the
death of self or the death of others is required before action is deemed appropriate. Such
a stringent threshold for the sake of saving a few dollars makes a mockery of the system
and is not in the public interest.
Simply put, Laura was murdered by the institutional negligence of the Nevada County
Behavioral Health Department and by the County Board of Supervisors for their
persistent failure to commit more than the legal minimum funding to the mental health
Finally, Laura was murdered by this man, Scott Thorpe, who we are told is unable to
distinguish right from wrong and yet he was allowed to refuse his medications and to
have access to an arsenal of weapons with which to act out his murderous impulses.
Whether he spends the rest of his life in a mental hospital or in prison is immaterial. He
is the one who will have to live with the consequences of his own actions.
As surviving family members of a murder victim, we now recognize our need for
information and acknowledgement of the harm.
It was very difficult for us to obtain information, both on the day of the shooting and
We, of course knew that Laura was at behavioral health that day, though we did not know
exactly where she was working. Amanda first heard about the shootings at 2:30 pm when
Lauras friend Robin called her from Oregon after having heard the news on a local
Oregon station. As you may recall, the shooting took place at approximately 11:25 am.
Amanda made repeated calls to the Sheriffs department throughout the afternoon to find
out if they had information on Laura. She was told that they had no information and they
dutifully took down our name, phone number and address.
Finally at 8 pm I called to demand information. The female voice at the Sheriffs office
replied, Well, Mr. Wilcox, why havent you been listening to the radio.
In a sickening instant, I knew that the worst possible circumstance was indeed a reality.
When the deputies finally arrived an hour and a half later to make the official
notification they could tell us nothing. Where was Laura? Where will they take
Laura? Who did this, and why? Did she suffer? The deputys primary concern seemed
to be to get the notification over with so that they could leave our house as quickly as
possible and release Lauras name to the media, now that almost twelve hours had passed

since the shooting. In the weeks and months that followed, we had to fight for every bit
of information that we eventually gained.
As the Court knows, this event had a profound effect on our community. For a short
time, a shadow passed before everyones eyes until Thorpe was captured and loved ones
accounted for. Afterwards there was an outpouring of sympathy. We received personal
notes of condolence from many including Assemblyman Sam Aanestad, Congressman
Wally Herger, Senator Barbara Boxer and from President Clinton.
Oddly, other than an initial contact from Izzy Martin and from the Victim/Witness
advocate, we heard nothing from officials at Nevada County or the Behavioral Health
Department for almost a full year. Several weeks after the incident, as they like to call
it, we received Lauras paycheck in the mail. Without explanation, the County
determined to pay Laura for eight hours on her final day, four hours of which she was
lying dead on the clinic floor. This was the only acknowledgement we ever received
from her employer that Laura lived or died. Apparently, the value of her life to Nevada
County was $35.56, the amount of the extra pay. Supervisor Sue Horne was quoted in
the newspaper on January 17th (2001), when she said, What do you tell a mother who
has lost her daughter? She answered her question by her actions. Evidently, you say
absolutely nothing.
The past two and a half years have been a long and difficult journey, there is so much
more that could be said. I will conclude, however, by bringing the focus back to Laura.
It is difficult to express in words the light that was her life. Rather than try, I will read a
few words written by Anita Issacs, Chair of the Political Science Department at
Haverford College. Anita wrote, Laura cared deeply about issues; she wanted to learn in
order to make a difference. She was the best of the best. In Lauras nineteen years, she
accomplished more than most of us will manage in fifty. We have been transformed by
her. Her contributions to campus life, academic and social, her ideals and her dreams are
an inspiration to us all. We need to promise ourselves to live up to Lauras ideals, to
remind ourselves of, and redouble our commitment to the goals of social justice and
service that Laura embraced so wholeheartedly. I assure you that I will do my best as an
educator, and as a parent, to uphold Lauras legacy.
Indeed, we must all uphold Lauras legacy as we work toward a just and safer world.
Play tape of Lauras phone message in her voice:
Hi! This is Laura. Im not here right now. Please leave a message and Ill get back to
How we wish that we could leave a message, but we cannot.