R.I.P. Jerrold Shelley

I am outraged, shocked and saddened about the tragic events of June 2, 2011 and the brutal killing of Jerrold Shelley and five others involved in one of his divorce cases. I am struggling with the words to describe these feelings and they all seem so inadequate.

When I began my law practice nearly twenty years ago, Jerry was one of the first attorneys I worked with. Over the years, I had quite literally hundreds of cases with Jerry. Sometimes we worked together and sometimes we were on opposite sides of the courtroom. Jerry was a constant presence in the practice of family law in Yuma. Jerry was surely skilled in the courtroom, but the thing I think I most admired about Jerry was his devotion to and love of his family. No matter how difficult the legal issue, Jerry always had a story about his children and grandchildren. As he talked about them, his face and voice would change and soften. He often spoke about his wife, Nancy, and what a gift she was in his life. He was always ready with a picture of his grandchildren. He was, without question, a family man. After more than thirty years of practice, Jerry was shutting down his office so that he could retire and spend his time with his wife, Nancy, and his children and grandchildren. Those plans will not happen now, but I cannot help but imagine that Jerry will be continuing to watch over his family now as he has always done. My heart goes out to Nancy, the children and grandchildren as they suffer through this enormous, enormous loss.

I also find myself thinking about the victims shot in Wellton, Arizona. These were innocent people who did nothing except try to help a woman as she suffered through her divorce proceedings. Each of those victims has friends and family who morn their loss and my thoughts and prayers are with them as well.

There is no one in the Yuma legal community who is unaffected by this senseless tragedy. The other lawyers and judges who were on the “hit list” have to be feeling petrified and vulnerable. Those of us who heard about the shooting right away rushed outside and watched helplessly, hoping that the ambulance would rush Jerry to the hospital for life saving treatment and realizing what it meant when the ambulance never moved. We all felt the fear and vulnerability of having to leave downtown under the watchful eye of Sheriff’s officers armed with assault rifles. Our legal assistants have to be wondering if something like this could happen in our offices and whether they might be ordered on the floor someday by an armed, angry person. This will effect us all for a very long time.