Living with Crazy: Calling in a 5150

At about 8 a.m. Thursday, March 22, Humboldt State University Police Officer Tom Dewey heard over the radio that a suicidal man was barricaded in the bathroom of his Arcata home.

Dewey was interested because the address was the Arcata home, where my husband, John, child and I had lived since 1998. Dewey was especially interested because the suicidal man would turn out to be my husband, and my husband was the prime suspect in an investigation Dewey was now charged with leading.
“We parked outside the residence while [Arcata police officers] dealt with the situation,” Dewey wrote as part of his report on his investigation into my husband’s crimes at Humboldt State.
“We saw Sterns [my husband] walk down his driveway and climb into an ambulance. Then the ambulance drove away. I learned that Sterns had left the bathroom voluntarily and decided to commit himself … for a mental health evaluation.”
Minutes later, Dewey was at my front door. I let him in. He acted concerned, and I was in shock, but calm and wary. He was the officer assigned to investigate whatever it was my husband had done wrong. I only had a vague idea of how much trouble John was in; John had not told me too much.
With Dewey, I would be polite and cooperate but on guard. At certain points in our otherwise cordial conversation, I would say “I don’t know” or actually say “I’m not going to answer that.”
As our 2-year-old remained quiet in the upstairs master bedroom, I sat with Dewey downstairs in our living room and, within limits, answered his questions.
Here is what Dewey reported:
“Ross said that she and Sterns had met in the late 1980s. They were married in 1991. They have a 3-year-old son. They lived in Thailand from 1989 to 1992, and in San Francisco from 1992 to 1998…”
“Ross said Sterns has a history of depression, which started in his teens. He has told Ross that he attempted suicide once prior to their marriage. He saw a psychotherapist in Berkeley for his depression from 1994 to 1996. In recent years, it seemed that Sterns had a handle on his depression, and knew how to deal with it now. He has not seen a psychotherapist, psychiatrist or psychologist since arriving at Humboldt State in 1998. He is not presently prescribed any mental health medication.
“Starting last year, it seemed that Sterns was starting to have some trouble with depression again. He was struggling with the depression, off and on. They began looking for employment elsewhere. …
“On Tuesday, Sterns came home and told Ross that he had been placed on administrative leave. Ross told him that he needed an attorney. …
“Sterns’ depression became more visible late on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. After [he] met with [his attorney], Sterns disclosed to Ross that he was thinking about hurting himself. Ross replied that if Sterns did hurt himself, it would destroy her and [their son]. They talked about things, and Sterns seemed open and rational.
“On Wednesday night/Thursday morning, Sterns was apparently up during the night. At about 5:30 a.m., Sterns was up. He phoned his sister. … Then depression flooded over Sterns. … He disclosed that he felt like hurting himself again. …
“They made an initial plan to have Ross take Sterns to the hospital after she took [their child] to school. Before Ross left for school, Sterns ended up breaking down again. They decided they needed to take Sterns to the hospital immediately, and called for an ambulance to respond.
“I provided Ross with an employee assistance informational sheet. I offered to take weapons for safekeeping. She admivsed me that Sterns possessed no weapons and that there were no guns in the house. We left about 9:02 a.m.”

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