Mass killer's widow thinks massacre could have been prevented

SAN DIEGO -- Mrs. Etna Huberty, widow of the man who killed 21 people at a McDonald's restaurant, said Wednesday she thinks the slaughter might have been prevented if her husband had received the psychiatric help he sought.

'A psychologist or a counselor could have gotten him to a medical doctor -- a psychiatrist -- and he could have given him medication,' Mrs. Huberty told the San Diego Union in the first interview she has given since the massacre.


'Maybe it would have happened anyway. I know if he had been kept in constant sedation, he couldn't have done it. If I would have had Valium or access to it, I would have given it to him myself.'

James Oliver Huberty, 41, an unemployed security guard, walked into the crowded fast-food outlet in the Mexican border suburb of San Ysidro July 18, ordered everyone down on the floor and started shooting them. Before he was felled by a police sniper, he had killed or fatally wounded 21 people and wounded another 19.


The widow of the perpetrator of the greatest mass-killing by a single gunman in a single day in U.S. history has returned to San Diego from Ohio, where she had been visiting relatives.

Huberty had contacted a mental health clinic the day before the massacre and was told someone would get back to him in a day or two. When Mrs. Huberty tried to follow up, fearing her husband would shoot someone, a clinic clerk told her there was no record of his call. It was later learned his name had been misspelled.

A police investigation disclosed that Huberty's call to a mental health center in San Ysidro, where the family lived, had been recorded under the name 'Shuberty,' due to clerical error.

'I think it was just an unfortunate matter that we happened to be in a Spanish-speaking community and there was a receptionist on the phone who didn't understand him and got the name wrong,' Mrs. Huberty said.

'People don't generally call a mental health clinic unless they have a problem. It was only since Sunday that he admitted he had a problem.'

The mass-killing took place on a Wednesday.

'If they had his name right, I would have been able to explain. It would have come straight out that he was hearing voices. He told me he was talking to God. He said God was two feet high and had a long beard,' she said.


The police probe showed that Mrs. Huberty called a mental health clinic in National City, Calif., seeking information on her husband the day before the killing.

She told the clerk there that her husband had guns and she feared he would shoot someone. She was told to call police and the San Ysidro clinic. She did not call police, and the call to the San Ysidro clinic was fruitless because of the misspelling.

Mrs. Huberty did not disclose plans for herself and her two daughters, Zelia, 12, and Cassandra, 10, except to reiterate she intends to write a book and earmark some of the money from it for survivors of the massacre.

She said personal gain was not her motive for the book. If it were, she said, 'I would have gone with the National Enquirer. They offered to top any offer.'

A figure of $1 million has been mentioned but not confirmed.

Mrs. Huberty received the first $1,000 grant from the San Ysidro Family Surviors fund, set up by McDonald's majority shareholder Joan Kroc of San Diego.

That triggered an outcry among contributors, several of whom demanded the return of their donation checks. Finally, author Norman Cousins announced he had stipulated that $1,000 of his $2,500 contribution go to the Huberty family, saying they too were victims of the tragedy.


Mrs. Huberty said she has some income from investments she made with her job earnings before she became a full-time mother. She said her husband became distraught when he lost his job, although the family could have survived on her nestegg for about four years.

She said she does not know where she will settle, adding that she considers real estate too costly in California.

Although she took her husband's ashes to Ohio for burial, she said she did not bury them or scatter them after her father-in-law let it be known that he had no desire to attend a memorial service for his son. She said she still has the ashes.

'He's with me,' Mrs. Huberty said.

Latest Headlines