News

Police: Suspicions of theft triggered Palo Alto's murder-suicide

Investigation suggests Marc Alvin Miller thought Vincent DePaul Collins was stealing from him

The Palo Alto man who police said fatally shot the apartment manager at the Alta Torre Apartments before killing himself in the building's elevator believed that the manager was stealing items from his apartment, the police investigation concluded.

Marc Alvin Miller, 69, is believed to have shot the building's manager, Vincent DePaul Collins, 70, four times on the afternoon of March 19 in the manager's office of the Fabian Way complex for low-income seniors. He then reportedly entered the building's elevator and shot himself once in the head with a 9-mm Smith and Wesson pistol.

Since that afternoon, Palo Alto officers have been interviewing residents, friends and family members of the men to determine the possible motive for the shooting.

The investigation revealed that on Feb. 8, Miller called the police to allege that Collins had been entering his apartment when it was unoccupied and stealing miscellaneous objects. Police said an officer responded to the call but could find no evidence that a crime had been committed.

"The officer interviewed (Collins), who denied that he had committed any theft or had even been inside the suspect's apartment without his permission," Palo Alto police said in a statement.

Police did not specify which items were purported to have been stolen, though officers say they were personal items with no obvious monetary value. Miller had allegedly told several friends that he believed Collins had stolen from him, though according to the police, the friends told Miller that he had "likely just misplaced the items."

Though some neighbors suggested that Collins' strict enforcement of complex rules, particularly its parking policies, may have contributed to the dispute, police said that the investigation did not uncover any motives for the shooting murder aside from the suspected theft. After the March 19 incident, Palo Alto police searched the homes of both Miller and Collins and didn't find any evidence suggesting that anything had been stolen.

Police said that since Alta Torre Apartments opened in 2010, there has not been a single theft or burglary reported at the facility. Collins had worked at Alta Torre as a manager since the building opened.

The March incident was the city's first homicide since October 2009, when Bulos Zumot was arrested for killing his girlfriend, Jennifer Schipsi, and setting their shared cottage on fire.

Related content:

Two men, two divergent lives, one fatal conflict (March 27, 2015)

Manager slain at Palo Alto senior complex described as 'strict,' 'kind' (March 24, 2015)

Victims identified in suspected murder-suicide in Palo Alto (March 21, 2015)

Police investigate possible murder-suicide in Palo Alto (March 19, 2015)

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 8:55 am

Sounds to me like the shooter was mentally ill. Really too bad no one noticed this in advance and took away his guns. Mental health programs in this city are failing too many people.


3 people like this
Posted by Govt-Not-The-Solution-To-Every-Problem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm

> Mental health programs in this city are failing too many people.

There are upwards of 160,000 people in Palo Alto every day (business employees, Stanford and PA residents). The City government is now supposed to provide mental health programs that are so effective that people like Miller are identified, and somehow provided mental health care that would prevent this sort of event?

Sorry .. but the City should not be involved trying to spend untold millions of dollars dabling with the mental health of everyone who happens to be in this city.

In this case, the police actually interviewed Miller and Collins--and apparently did not come to the conclusion that Miller was mentally ill, because of his seemingly unjustified accusations against Collins. Unlike other illnesses, mental illness does not manifest itself in ways that would allow a police officer to take someone into custody and detain them indefinately for treatment.





4 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:10 pm

Perhaps better training of the police would have helped them flag this person for a more thorough background check. Questionable behavior plus gun ownership should be 2 immediate red flags.


Like this comment
Posted by Govt-Not-The-Solution-To-Every-Problem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:17 pm

> Perhaps better training of the police would have helped them flag this
> person for a more thorough background check.

And perhaps not. Certainly people described as friends of Miller did not seem to be concerned about his conflict with Collins ending in a tragedy like this one. At some point, mental illness is not guaranteed to present as other diseases do.

The article does not indicate if the PA police asked Miller about his ownership of firearms. Nor does the article indicate that the police did an extensive background check with the goal of identifying indications of mental illness. Hard to believe that the police would be able to do this sort of investigation for every complaint about domestic disorder.

Of course, every business renting/leasing spaces to people, particularly seniors, might require that a certificate of mental health be a part of the application for occupancy.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm

The police don't have to do the background check themselves, just count enough red flags to forward the case to a professional social worker. They also shouldn't have to trust the man's claim about gun ownership if they can check the gun registry. No, proactive policing won't stop all tragedies, but it can stop enough to make it worthwhile.


3 people like this
Posted by sad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm

This is just a sad situation that is probably beyond any second-guessing. I have known good people who turned into something else when they got old and started going through dementia. It doesn't happen to everyone, but... I have a dear friend whose husband became accusatory and angry after having a stroke, she suffered a great deal in the last months of his life after the stroke. This situation was just the essence of tragedy.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2015 at 5:31 pm

This is where gun ownership rights make no sense. Perhaps in his younger days owning a gun was something he could deal with. As he aged and became more mentally infirm, dementia, or whatever, those guns should never have been in his possession.

I am not familiar with gun registration. Does it have to be renewed each year? Does it have to be renewed with a change of address? At what stage does any gun owner have to revoke his license? Is it like a drivers license and can his family or neighbors report that he is no longer mentally competent to own a gun?

If this guy had no gun, two people would be alive today.

The question now is, how many more residents in this complex have a gun and are there any still mentally competent? Come to that, how many of my elderly neighbors have a gun and are still mentally competent? Could my neighbor decide to have an argument with me on some trivial matter produce a gun and shoot me?

I suppose there are places that this happens all the time. I sure hope my neighbors like me.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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