Divorce rage to blame in Santa Monica shootings, ricin letters

These two acts of violence seemingly have a common catalyst: divorce. Photo: Memorial at Santa Moncia College / AP Nick Ut

SAN DIEGO, June 11, 2013 –  A heavily armed, angry 23 year old man named John Zawahri shoots and kills five people including his father and brother and others on the campus of Santa Monica College during a rampage before officers killed him in the library.

Pregnant actress Shannon Richardson, 35, went to authorities and told them she suspected her husband of two years was the one who had mailed ricin-laced letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg threatening violence against gun-control advocates. But upon investigation, it’s now believed Richardson herself mailed the letters in a bizarre attempt to frame her husband for bioterrorism.

SEE RELATED: Details emerge from Santa Monica shooting spree (AP)

These two acts of violence seemingly have a common catalyst: divorce.

After initially implicating her husband, Nathaniel Richardson, Shannon Richardson finally admitted that she played a role in sending the letters, but she insisted her husband typed them and “made her” print and send them, the affidavit says.

Shannon Richardson admitted sending ricin-tainted letters to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. AP Photo/The Texarkana Gazette, Curt Youngblood

No charges have been filed against her husband. His attorney, John Delk told the Associate Press that the couple is going through a divorce and that the 33-year-old Army veteran may have been “set up” by his wife. In divorce papers filed Thursday, Nathanial Richardson said the marriage had become “insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities.”

SEE RELATED: No-fault divorce laws save lives

Delk said the Richardsons were expecting their first child in October. Shannon Richardson also has five children ranging in age from 4 to 19 from other relationships.

Court records allege years of turmoil between the parents of the Santa Monica shooter. John Zawahri ‘s mother described his father as “verbally abusive and controlling” during their marriage. The father sought divorce in 1993, and his mother was working on divorce papers in 1998. Zawahri’s mother also requested a restraining order against her husband in 1998. John Zawarhi would have been eight years old.

After a separation, the mother claimed her husband threatened to take their two young sons to Canada, struck her and stole her divorce papers. She said she was afraid to press charges. It’s unclear whether the couple ever formally divorced, but the conflict and the anger apparently have never been resolved.

Many people have no idea how often divorce involves powerful, irrational emotions, including lawyers, judges, and mediators. It’s normal. During adversarial divorce proceedings, your spouse may act in a deceptive way, or demand too much, or make a request that is legal, but doesn’t seem fair. This person is someone you once loved and trusted, and may be the mother or father of your children. How could he or she be so cold hearted? It’s no wonder this creates very strong negative feelings. Even after the divorce is finalized, you may be angry and feeling that your ex “ruined” your life. 

SEE RELATED: Domestic violence murders increasing; how to protect yourself

Some people hold onto their anger, fanning the flames of their rage. It takes over their whole lives, all their thoughts and actions. They live to inflict emotional or physical harm on their ex-spouse, sometimes through their one remaining point of contact – their children. They fail to see the pain they are inflicting on innocent victims.

This sort of rage can last for years after a divorce. It can scar everyone in the family. When a child raised in this environment becomes an adult, his or her own unaddressed anger can boil over.

Was this what happened with the Santa Monica shooter, John Zawahri? We may never know for sure.

What has happened in both these cases is tragic for everyone. We must be more aggressive in helping people cope with the strong emotions fueled by divorce, and more aggressive and aware about protecting people who might become the target of their anger. In too many cases, anger and rage over divorce boil over into acts of violence. Threats should always be taken seriously. We see over and over the consequences of dismissing divorce rage as “just talk.”

Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities at Washington Times. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra.

Copyright © 2013 by Fleischer & Ravreby, Attorneys at Law

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Myra Fleischer

Family law attorney Myra Chack Fleischer, CFLS, has been practicing law since 1997 and in 2001 founded Fleischer & Associates, Attorneys At Law in Southern California. Today, the firm focuses on divorce and other family law areas. Fleischer's expertise and expertise put her squarely among Southern California's most prominent family law attorneys. She is a much sought-after legal commentator by news media.

Fleischer & Associates is online at www.fleischerlawoffice.com.

Contact Myra Fleischer


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