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Man Who Shot Father Struggled with Mental Illness

Man Who Shot Father Struggled with Mental Illness

Posted - Oct. 10, 2004 at 5:20 p.m.



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Tonya Papanikolas ReportingA Holladay family is dealing with what they call a "double loss." Last night officers say a 19-year-old shot his father in the head at close range. That shot killed James Gully.

As you can imagine, they're having a hard time with the loss. The Davis County Sheriff's office says they don't know exactly what led up to the shooting. Jim's wife told KSL TV over the phone the situation was not a family fight, but she says it is a family tragedy.

61-Year-old James Gully was duck hunting with his 19-year-old son, Benjamin, when police say the teen turned the gun on his father.

Matt Heidrich, Heard the Shot: “We were just getting ready to clean up the decoys, and I heard this guy shoot and he started screaming, I heard him scream twice. He acted just panicking, like he didn't, he just realized what he did or something."

Other duck hunters called 911 and officers notified the family. Today the neighborhood is dealing with the shock and grief.

David Young, Neighbor: “It's tragic. I do feel bad. He's been a good neighbor for a lot of years. He'll be missed."

Jim's wife Janice released a statement saying Ben had been struggling for almost a year with severe mental illness. They say they always feared he might harm himself, but never thought he would be capable of harming others.

That brings up the question of why he had a gun and was hunting, but a psychiatrist says unless Ben had exhibited dangerous tendencies, there may not have been anything to alert the family.

Dr. David Tomb, Psychiatrist: “There's nothing intrinsically dangerous about people who have mental illnesses. There's no way to predict because a person has a mental illness, they are more likely when they get angry to become dangerous."

In her statement, Janice Gully said, "Please know that Ben Gully adores his father. Jim was devoted to Ben and to helping him navigate the bewildering morass of mental illness. All of us know that it was not Ben who harmed his father, but the illness itself."

Neighbors say Jim's death is hard to deal with and they want the family to know of their love and support.

David Young: “Our heart goes out to each of those that are left behind.”

Benjamin Gully is in the Davis County jail. Police say there is enough evidence to charge him with criminal homicide. We don't know if his mental illness will factor into the charges, but he is expected to be charged tomorrow.

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