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With Gun In The Mix, Mental Illness Turns To Tragedy

Memo Pad National News

With Gun In The Mix, Mental Illness Turns To Tragedy


Colby Sue Weathers killed her father at the insistence of the voices in her head.

She shot him once in the back as he sat at the family’s dining room table. A paranoid schizophrenic, Weathers had used the money from her disability check to buy the handgun.

In September, the 40-year-old Missouri woman was declared not guilty of first-degree murder due to her mental impairment.

Her mother is grateful. Finally, her only daughter is receiving appropriate medication and counseling — at a state mental hospital. That’s some solace after losing the man she’d married 39 years before as a 17-year-old bride.

Both women miss Tex Delana horribly.

“I don’t blame her,” Janet Delana calmly explained in a long conversation this week. “She was sick and we couldn’t get her any help. That’s what hurts the most; there was nowhere to turn.”

Her family’s story briefly flashed in the media last spring when Delana filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Odessa Gun and Pawn, the gun store in Odessa, Missouri that sold her daughter the gun. The suit claims that the shop did so despite the fact that Delana had informed an employee that Weathers was mentally ill and a danger.

Two days before her husband’s death, Delana had called the gun shop and begged an employee not to sell a gun to her daughter, who had bought one there the month prior. She had called the ATF and the FBI; she had tried to get all of her daughter’s medical records together for the gun shop and frantically tried to reach doctors.

Delana realized her efforts were in vain when her daughter texted her: “Dad is dead.”

Whenever a mentally ill person kills with a gun — be it in these lesser known cases or in higher-profile mass shootings — the question naturally arises: Why can’t more be done to keep weapons out their hands? A tangle of interests works against stronger restrictions.

Mental-health professionals fear stigmatizing mentally ill people, most of whom are not violent. Doctors fear liability, both for labeling someone as violent and for failing to do so. Privacy rights are an issue. And elected officials at every level of government quiver at the threats of the NRA, which staunchly fights any perceived attack on the Second Amendment.

Delana wishes waiting periods could be instated for handgun purchases — and she is by no means opposed to responsible gun ownership. Her husband was a hunter.

Weathers had bought the second gun on a Wednesday and killed her father a short time later. A three-day waiting period would have pushed her acquisition of the gun to the weekend, when her mother would be home from work. Maybe the storms in her head, building for two weeks, would have subsided by then.

The loss Delana suffered was extreme. But she emphasizes that the details of her daughter’s spiral are familiar to families with an adult child suffering from severe mental illness.

Before she killed her father, Weathers had never been violent. But she had been deeply troubled for about seven years.

She’d spend hours standing the street, staring up at the sky. Or she’d sit at the big window in the front of the house, adamant that the same car kept passing by.

The longest Weathers had spent in a hospital was about a week, after a suicide attempt. She was prescribed medication that cost $600 a month. By the time her mother could find an affordable rate, Weathers would refuse the drugs. She often threw them up.

After Weathers fired a mental-health case manager, the family tried to keep her in touch with reality. They had to cajole her into bathing. But she rarely slept, and she believed her mother had sold her off as a sex slave at 12.

If Delana could go back and change anything about this episode, she says, she would have lied to health officials. She would have told them that her daughter was a physical threat to the family or herself, in hopes of triggering involuntary hospitalization.

But it was difficult to see where her daughter’s illness would lead. Before the problems began, Weathers had earned a paralegal degree, worked in accounting and was “one of the most generous and decent people,” her mother said.

Delana now visits her daughter every other weekend. She’s at peace, knowing her daughter is safe.

“It’s just amazing to me, the transformation,” Delana said. “It’s like my old daughter is back.”

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via email at msanchez@kcstar.com.

Photo: Mike Saechang via Flickr

Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez has spent years covering immigration, schools, and other volatile beats for The Kansas City Star. She is now an editorial columnist for the Star, where she continues to offer insightful commentary on immigration, culture, and politics.

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  1. ExRadioGuy15 October 14, 2014

    Mostly on Facebook, I’ve been writing about how the mass shooters are psychopaths. Psychopaths are insane. Insane people should have NO ACCESS TO GUNS. Neither should criminals. That is the point of the reasonable and sane gun legislation I’ve proposed ever since the Sandy Hook massacre.
    But, we have the people I correctly call the “Gun Nuts”, who use fear, paranoia and logical fallacies to claim that ANY gun legislation is an infringement on their rights. That includes allowing the insane and criminals to have access to guns 🙁 ssmdh

    1. clueless liberals October 15, 2014

      A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

      How many hours did you waste thinking of something so profoundly stupid as Psychopaths are insane? Did someone waste their time helping you come up with this or with criminals should not posses firearms?
      Sandy Hook was a hoax according to the FBI, so go get something else to prove your stupid argument.
      I think murderers should be publicly hung to show their actions have consequence.
      Pedophiles should have their genitals removed just before the needle is inserted.
      You liberals need to stop wasting our tax money building confinement camps.
      and the last question is if the government told you that you need to stop breathing in the oxygen because their is a shortage, would you all try stopping? of course you would your a bunch of sheep! silly me for asking that lol

  2. rustacus21 October 14, 2014

    … & as such, the demand has grown to investigate what’s really going on w/law enforcement, especially in large, diverse metro area’s. Possibly the pressure, maybe it’s racism, perhaps cultural self-hate, but the incidents of violence & murder against citizens who are – we learn – after the fact, innocent of any crimes at all, or only needing the casual process of being arrested, are murdered, by what appears to be insane rage. St Louis is a prime example. Off-duty, why is police officer chasing random kids down on the street (http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/10/09/3577923/why-did-an-off-duty-st-louis-cop-kill-a-black-teen-last-night/)? How can so many of these ‘mistaken shootings’ happen, among supposed professional law enforcement officers (http://www.ajc.com/news/news/crime-law/police-using-deadly-force-are-rarely-convicted/ng8Nf/). After all, isn’t this why we pay taxes, to ensure that the very best in our community are allowed the privilege of, well, ‘enforcing the law’? Troubling questions continue to arise & as a non-White, being under surveillance (HERE, on the street, on my phones…) already, as an American in an increasingly totalitarian society, should I even be saying anything about this in public? In America? What’s wrong w/US that the Department of Justice, our Congress, even the President can’t, in concert, make the push to do something more meaningful than give condolences & hopefulness speeches & let it all go away. These are really serious issues & precious lives are being lost in the meantime! Democracy is all about the rule of law, but loosing out to the barbarism of the more savage past of humanity – from this street violence to the Environment. Have we really lost our morality to this degree? W/our Democracy soon to follow? As if there was no collapsed Egypt, Greece, Rome, etc., to consider as examples, for the more intelligent, Enlightened, concerned among us? Or are there that few American’s of that inclination left?

  3. James Garner October 16, 2014

    Paradoxically, the gun-control fanatics’ ongoing war against our 2nd Amendment has lead to record firearms sales in these united states.


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