Behavioral health professionals consider risk of taking court-appointed cases following killing spree

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Stacey Bruen has been involved in court-appointed therapy for 20 years. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Stacey Bruen has been involved in court-appointed therapy for 20 years. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Police say Dr. Steven Pitt was murdered after playing a role in a bitter divorce and custody battle involving suspect Dwight Jones. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Police say Dr. Steven Pitt was murdered after playing a role in a bitter divorce and custody battle involving suspect Dwight Jones. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The murder mystery that rocked the Valley for days hit home for Bruen, who had unknowingly provided temporary office space to a fellow behavioral health professional who was a likely target of suspect Dwight Jones. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The murder mystery that rocked the Valley for days hit home for Bruen, who had unknowingly provided temporary office space to a fellow behavioral health professional who was a likely target of suspect Dwight Jones. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Behavioral health professionals across the Valley were rattled by a murder spree that left six people dead including a renowned forensic psychiatrist. 

Police say Dr. Steven Pitt was murdered after playing a role in a bitter divorce and custody battle involving suspect Dwight Jones. 

[RELATED: Phoenix PD: Well-known forensic psychiatrist Dr. Steven Pitt shot and killed]

Now some are questioning whether taking court-appointed therapy cases is worth the risk.

“I went through the Rolodex in my head of the court-appointed cases I currently have and who are the pressure cookers,” says Stacey Bruen, a licensed professional counselor.

[RELATED: Scottsdale counselor learning she was intended target of spree killer]

Bruen is now reconsidering her screening process when taking on new cases. She’s been involved in court-appointed therapy for 20 years. She estimates it takes up about 20 percent of her practice.

“This tragedy made me think of the work I’m doing,” says Bruen.

She’s always been mindful of her safety, says Bruen. She recalls a situation where she felt she was in danger.

[RELATED: PD: ‘We knew he was our suspect and murderer’]

“I was in my office late at night with a teen and a father,” says Bruen. “The teen had locked herself in my bathroom scared, and I was scared that something was going to happen to me.”

Bruen says after she threatened to call the police, the client left. 

The murder mystery that rocked the Valley for days hit home for Bruen, who had unknowingly provided temporary office space to a fellow behavioral health professional who was a likely target of suspect Dwight Jones.

[TIMELINE: Killing spree leaves 6 victims dead in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills]

“My first thought was she’s alive,” says Bruen. “My second thought was, holy crap that could have been my office.”

The community of professionals who take on court-appointed work is already very small. Some say they refuse to take on those cases because of the risk.  Bruen says those who do take the work have a passion to make a difference.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Scottsdale, Phoenix Killing Spree]

“We're thinking of those kids and we want their life to be better,” says Bruen.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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