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Another lawsuit will target mother of Western Psych shooter

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

The family of a therapist killed by a schizophrenic gunman at Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic in Oakland filed notice on Thursday of a civil lawsuit against the shooter's mother.

John Shick, 30, of Oakland walked into Western Psych with two handguns and opened fire on March 8, 2012, killing Michael Schaab, 25, of Regent Square and wounding four others. Police shot and killed Shick.

The notice filed by Schaab's estate and administered by his mother, Mary Schaab, 51, of Salem, does not yet include a complaint but names Susan Shick, John Shick's mother, as a defendant.

Susan Shick's attorneys, Thomas P. Birris, Joseph V. Lesinski and Stuart Sostmann, could not be reached.

It is the fourth lawsuit filed in relation to the shooting.

Three others filed by Western Psych receptionist Katherine Leight, 66, of Glenshaw, security guard Jeremy Byers, 37, of Swissvale and UPMC employee Keith Taylor, no age available, of Carrick claim Susan Shick was aware of her son's need for psychiatric treatment but failed to prevent him from being a danger to others. The other lawsuits also claim UPMC doctors missed several opportunities to commit John Shick to a mental facility.

Susan Shick, who lives on a yacht, could not be reached. She is expected to be in Pittsburgh this month to give a deposition for at least two of the lawsuits, according to court records.

In a June 2012 posting to her website, The Log of Moira, Susan Shick wrote that she could not compel their son to go to doctor's appointments or take his medications. She wrote that she and her husband, Larry, gave their son support to live independently but could not assuage his feelings of alienation.

Neither Michael O'Day, the attorney representing Michael Schaab's estate, nor the Schaab family returned calls or an email.

Duquesne University law professor S. Michael Streib said O'Day might have filed the notice to serve Shick of the Schaabs' intent to sue while she's in town. Attorneys on another case hired a member of the Royal Bahamian Police Force to find her, court records show.

Streib said he was still “at a loss” about why the attorneys are blaming Susan Shick for her adult son's actions.

“I don't see either the practical aspects or the legal obligation for her to control him,” he said. “At this point, he was no longer a child. He was out in society living on his own. She wasn't here, so she couldn't have had a warning, that I'm aware of, that he was about to go out and do these things and she had no ability to control him from that distance or to warn others of his dangerous propensities.”

John Shick, diagnosed as schizophrenic during involuntary commitments in New York and Oregon, began seeing doctors at UPMC's Shadyside Family Health Center in 2011 when he moved to Pittsburgh to begin graduate school at Duquesne University. The school expelled him in October 2011 and banned him from campus because he harassed female students.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-9027 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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