Psychiatrist gunned down near his office.
Dr. Steven Pitt, 59, native Detroiter and renowned forensic psychiatrist, was shot to death outside his Scottsdale, Ariz., office on Thursday afternoon, May 31, 2018. Pitt, who was known for his work on prominent cases such as JonBenet Ramsey’s murder in 1996 and the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, died at the scene.
The killer, identified by Phoenix police as Dwight Lamon Jones, 56, went on to kill five more people before taking his own life four days later. Police later discovered that Jones had embarked on a revenge killing spree of people who had played a role in a contentious divorce and custody case in 2009. During those proceedings, Pitt had performed a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation of Jones.
The other victims were paralegals Veleria Sharp, 48, and Laura Anderson, 49, who worked for the law firm Burt, Feldman and Grenier, which had represented Jones’ ex-wife in the divorce; counselor and life coach Marshall Levine, 72; and Bryon Thomas, 72, and Mary Simmons, 70, who occasionally played tennis with Jones. At press time, police hadn’t released a motive for the couple’s killing; they were found dead inside their home in a quiet neighborhood.
Police later discovered Levine was not the intended victim; he had been subletting the office from a woman who had provided counseling services to Jones’ son during the divorce. After a tip led police to Jones, he took his own life as officers closed in on his Phoenix hotel room on Monday, June 4, hours before Pitt’s funeral service.
Pitt grew up in Southfield with his brother, Darryl, and his parents, Dorothy and the popular orchestra leader Mack Pitt. After graduating from the former Southfield-Lathrup High School, he attended Michigan State University, where he developed a lifelong passion for all things Spartan, especially MSU football and basketball. He went on to graduate from the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, followed by residency training at the University of Michigan Medical Center and a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the University of Maryland. At the time of his death, in addition to his private practice, he was serving as a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
“He was a great guy, a lot of fun,” said Missy Handler of Huntington Woods, a high school friend who attended the funeral service. “He was always laughing and joking around.”
Rabbi Harold Loss of Temple Israel, who traveled to Arizona to officiate the funeral service, described Pitt as a “warm, welcoming and loving man.” He put his family first and encouraged his sons, Asa and Beau, to forge sincere relationships, be nice to girls and find meaningful work they would enjoy.
“When you met him, you immediately felt a connection,” Loss said. “He had a very serious professional side, but at home he had the ability to put that in its place and be this incredible father, partner, brother and friend.”
According to lifelong friend Jay Gooding, now a California resident, Pitt was a devoted father, a loyal friend and a dedicated professional who earned the respect of colleagues and law enforcement officials locally and nationally. He had an adventurous spirit and loved to travel to exotic places all over the world. While his work often took him to the dark side of human nature, he had a legendary sense of humor and loved to make others laugh. He was looking forward to a future with his fiancée, Natalie Collins, with whom he shared a close and loving relationship.
“He thrived on meeting new people and was always interested in figuring out what made people tick,” said Gooding, who spoke at the funeral service. “He was good energy for the universe.”
Steven Pitt is survived by his brother, Darryl (Janine); sons, Asa and Beau, fiancée, Natalie Collins, and nieces, Alana and Daniella.