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Murderer’s Father Describes Son’s Mental Illness

Jury must decided if Christopher Shumey was sane when he killed his mother, Lompoc Valley teacher Karen Shumey

Christopher Shumey’s father told a San Luis Obispo County jury on Monday that he didn’t know his son had stolen his guns until he’d taken him to a mental-health facility.

That’s when Christopher Shumey told him he’d taken a .22-caliber rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun from a locked storage unit, intending to commit suicide.

“I had completely forgotten that I had any guns at all,” Robert Shumey said.

He tried to hide the guns from his son, but Christopher Shumey stole them a second time.

And on Sept. 17, 2011, he used the shotgun to kill his mother — Lompoc Valley schoolteacher Karen Shumey, 65 — as she stood outside his San Luis Obispo apartment.

“I was in an absolute craze,” Robert Shumey said, describing his reaction to the news that his wife had been murdered.

Robert Shumey testified on behalf of his son, who is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.

His son has already been convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his mother.

A Superior Court trial is now focused on whether the man was sane at the time of the shooting.

Before discussing his guns, Robert Shumey, a real estate appraiser from Arroyo Grande, described how he and his wife had helped their son with his mental illness for nearly 15 years. Christopher Shumey, 36, was first treated for a mental disorder, his father said, while studying film and digital media at UC Santa Cruz.

During that first mental breakdown, in 1999, Christopher Shumey reported hearing the critical voice of God, which led him to respond — even in public, his father said.

“Every minute, he would drop to his knees in prayer,” Robert Shumey said.

For a time, Christopher Shumey was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. And through the years, his parents helped him get further treatment and medication.

At times, he stabilized with medication. But in 2011, family members said, he began to spiral downward, just as he had in 1999.

“We had speculated as a family that something was not right,” testified the defendant’s brother, Bryan Shumey.

In the weeks before the shooting, Robert and Bryan Shumey said, the defendant appeared distant and was talking to people who weren’t there.

“It was like he was in another world … and it scared me,” Bryan Shumey said.

During the first two weeks of August in 2011, Robert and Karen Shumey began keeping a log of Christopher Shumey’s symptoms. And at the end of the month, Robert Shumey drove his son to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara.

That’s when Christopher Shumey told his father he had taken guns from his storage unit.

Robert Shumey said he tried to dispose of the guns at the San Luis Obispo Police Department, but the staff seemed too busy. So he took them to his Santa Maria office, where he wrapped them in a towel and hid them behind a file cabinet.

A few days later, Christopher Shumey — who had a key to the office — found the guns after his release from Cottage Hospital.

Christopher Shumey’s attorney, Pierre Blahnik, has said his client intended to kill himself.

On Sept. 16, Karen Shumey — who taught at Vandenberg Middle School — took her son to dinner and a movie in San Luis Obispo. When she returned to his apartment the next day, he became upset for unknown reasons.

Christopher Shumey and his mother agreed she’d leave for 20 minutes so he could cool off. During that time, Karen Shumey called her husband, crying. As she prepared to return to the apartment, Robert Shumey said he’d call her in 20 minutes.

As Karen Shumey walked back to the apartment, Blahnik said, Christopher Shumey had the barrel of the shotgun in his mouth, ready to kill himself.

Deputy District Attorney Karen Gray said he was readying to shoot his mother, who he felt was overly controlling.

After Karen Shumey knocked on the door, her son fired on her twice, killing her with the second shot.

“I called her back in 20 minutes, and there was no answer,” Robert Shumey said. “I called, like, three times, and there was no answer, so I knew something was wrong.”

Patrick S. Pemberton is a reporter with the San Luis Obispo County Tribune. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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