Five Killed in Southern Arizona Shooting, Criminal Defense Lawyer Among Victims

Posted by: Phoenix Arizona Criminal Defense Lawyer

A man who was apparently upset over a contentious divorce killed his former wife, her lawyer and three others on Thursday morning in the border city of Yuma, Ariz., before killing himself, the authorities and friends of the victims said.

A Yuma County Sheriff’s deputy put up crime scene tape outside of a residence east of Wellton, Ariz., on Thursday.

The police were still piecing together the confusing situation, which left a trail of six bodies across the city and its environs. After killing five people and wounding a friend of his former wife, the gunman, identified as Carey H. Dyess, 73, of the farming community of Wellton, killed himself, the authorities said.

“It’s a tragedy,” Yuma’s mayor, Alan L. Krieger, said in a telephone interview. “We’re a very close-knit community, and it’s very sad that this happened. It’s unusual, and it’s not reflective of the values of our community.”

The police said one of the victims was Jerrold Shelley, 65, a lawyer who specialized in divorce and criminal defense cases and was nearing retirement. He had represented Mr. Dyess’s former wife in divorce proceedings, the police said. They said the victims included Mr. Dyess’s former wife and others he knew.

Public records show that Mr. Dyess was married in 2002, but that the mobile home he shared with his wife was transferred in 2007 to her sole ownership because of “dissolution of marriage.” Records indicate that while they were married, an order of protection had been issued against Mr. Dyess. He had been married and divorced four times before, in Washington State, according to The Associated Press.

“This is a great loss,” said Robert Roberson, a minister in Johnson City, Tenn., who was Mr. Shelley’s law partner for more than 20 years. After the shooting, Mr. Roberson spoke with Mr. Shelley’s secretary, who saw the gunman barge into the office and open fire. “It’s not unusual to hear about an irate person on the other side in a divorce case who has a grudge against their ex’s divorce lawyer, but nobody expects anything like this,” he said.

Lance A. Francis, another lawyer who knew Mr. Shelley, often referred cases to him. Mr. Shelley was married with grown children and several grandchildren. “He had a stellar reputation,” Mr. Francis said. “A good guy and a good lawyer.”

Another colleague in Yuma, Cristyn E. Weil, said Mr. Shelley, a University of Arizona graduate who had been in private practice since 1975, “helped a lot of people in his practice and his life.”

“The last time I spoke to him he was asking me how my husband was,” Ms. Weil said. “He told me that his son was practicing in Phoenix and had a job with a large firm there, and I could tell that he was very proud of his son.”

As the shootings took place across the city and surrounding areas, law enforcement officials temporarily closed schools and government buildings, seeking to understand who was responsible.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims,” Presiding Judge Andrew W. Gould of Superior Court in Yuma County said in a statement. “We are shocked and saddened at the violent acts that have occurred in our close-knit community,” he added.

Susan Saulny contributed reporting from New York, and Jack Begg contributed research from New York.

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