Fla. suspect ‘mentally ill’

Associated Press / November 8, 2009

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ORLANDO, Fla. - The engineer accused of fatally shooting an employee and wounding five others at the firm where he once worked is “very mentally ill’’ and crumbled under the stress of his divorce, bankruptcy, and unemployment, his attorney said yesterday.

Jason Rodriguez, 40, was charged with first-degree murder and ordered held without bail at the Orange County Jail, where he is under suicide watch after Friday’s shooting. His mother, Ana Rodriguez, apologized yesterday, telling reporters she is “so sorry for everything that has happened.’’

Public defender Bob Wesley asked the judge at a brief court appearance yesterday to order that police and prosecutors have no contact with Rodriguez without his permission.

Wesley told reporters that Rodriguez lost his emotional stability because of deep financial problems. “This guy is a compilation of the front page of the entire year - unemployment, foreclosure, bankruptcy, divorce - all of the stresses,’’ Wesley said. “He has been declining in mental health. There is no logic whatsoever, which points to a mental health case.’’

Employees at Reynolds, Smith, and Hills recognized their former co-worker when he drew a handgun from a holster under his shirt, police said, and killed Otis Beckford, 26, next to a receptionist’s desk in an office at a downtown Orlando tower. He then walked into the office and unloaded several more rounds, wounding five other employees at the company he had been fired from two years ago.

Orlando police identified the wounded as Gregory Hornbeck, 39; Ferrell Hickson, 40; Guy Lugenbeel, 62; Edward Severino; 34; and Keyondra Harrison; 27. All were in stable condition and all are expected to survive.