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Slay suspect fell into 'stress overload'

| Sunday, Nov. 8, 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. — Jason Rodriguez's marriage long ago went sour, his home taken in foreclosure, his job lost to incompetence, his finances sunk in bankruptcy. It was a "stress overload" for the man accused of a deadly shooting rampage at his former office, his lawyer said Saturday.

The 40-year-old man whose life seemed to just keep getting worse was charged yesterday with first-degree murder, accused of killing one and wounding five Friday in his former office. He said nothing in his brief court appearance, but his attorney portrayed him as a mentally ill man who fell victim to countless problems.

"This guy is a compilation of the front page of the entire year — unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce — all of the stresses," said the public defender, Bob Wesley. "He has been declining in mental health. There is no logic whatsoever, which points to a mental health case. It looks like a classic case of stress overload."

Police refused to say anything more yesterday about their investigation into the shooting. But as Rodriguez remained on suicide watch at the Orange County Jail, a portrait of his crumbling life began to emerge.

He couldn't pay the child support he owed for his 8-year-old son. He was nearly $90,000 behind on bills, his bankruptcy file showed. A once-promising, but short-lived career at an engineering firm faded into a job at a fast-food chain.

Wesley described his client as "very, very mentally ill" but offered no specifics. His former mother-in-law, America Holloway, said he was a schizophrenic who was constantly paranoid, blaming others for all of his woes and who always thought everyone disliked him.

The suspect's own mother struggled for words to defend her son. She could only muster an apology.

"Sorry for the families involved," Ana Rodriguez said. "I'm really very sorry, it is very hurtful."

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