November 27, 1997 in City

Shooting Suspect Is Schizophrenic Alleged Killer Of Bus Driver Complained Of Mind Control

By The Spokesman-Review

The man accused of fatally shooting a school bus driver while seven horrified students watched is a diagnosed schizophrenic who hears voices in his head and believes he is the subject of “mind-control experiments,” his lawyer said Wednesday.

James E. Iverson also claims he has implants in his teeth that send electric jolts through his skull whenever someone uses a citizens-band radio near him, court-appointed attorney John Troberg said. Iverson says he sees black and white flashes, “like a strobe light,” and his head grows extremely hot when the implants are activated, Troberg said.

“He says the feeling is similar to that of a dog shocker,” Troberg told Superior Court Judge Larry Kristianson during Iverson’s first court appearance. “Mr. Iverson feels he is being used for some type of mind-control techniques.”

Stevens County deputies suspect Iverson shot 61-year-old Frank Eslick to death with a hunting rifle Monday.

The attack came about 3:30 p.m., shortly after deputies received a call for help from two loggers who said a man, thought to be Iverson, shot at them as they drove past his house on rural McNitt Road, about five miles east of Barstow, Wash.

Deputies were rolling to that address when Eslick stopped Orient School District bus No. 6 outside the cedar-sided house at 2721 McNitt to drop off one of Iverson’s sons, Stevens County Prosecutor Jerry Wetle said Wednesday.

Seven students who were still on the bus told investigators a shot rang out just after the Iverson boy stepped off the bus, Wetle said in court. The bullet, which apparently traveled through a side window, hit Eslick in the right side of the head, Wetle said.

One of the students rushed forward and gave Eslick a T-shirt to stanch the bleeding while the others screamed at Iverson to call 911, Wetle said.

Instead, Iverson stood in his front doorway about 50 feet away holding the rifle, the students said. When Eslick staggered off the bus, Iverson raised the gun to his shoulder and fired again, the witnesses said. “That was likely the fatal shot,” said Wetle, who also serves as county coroner.

Authorities aren’t sure why Eslick decided to leave the bus after being shot. He died at the scene. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday.

The students escaped out an emergency door at the back of the bus and ran to a neighbor’s house, where they waited for help. They were not hurt.

Counselors were at Kettle Falls High School and Orient Elementary School on Wednesday to help grieving students, said Steve Holland, superintendent of the Orient School District. “Things went about as well as can be expected,” Holland said.

Iverson, who apparently lost his right eye in an accident some time ago, appeared in court in orange jail-issue coveralls, with his hands cuffed and his legs in irons. His long hair was pulled back in a ponytail and the whiskers of his scraggly beard stuck out in odd directions.

He whispered with Troberg off-and-on during the 40-minute hearing and answered Kristianson’s questions in a clear voice. He told the judge he couldn’t afford to hire his own attorney because he was unemployed and supporting his family of six with an $800-per-month disability check.

Several members of Eslick’s family attended the hearing, but left the Stevens County Courthouse without comment.

Wetle asked Kristianson to hold Iverson without bond. “It is very likely that Mr. Iverson is a dangerous man,” he said. Iverson was convicted of second-degree assault nearly 20 years ago but has no recent criminal arrests or convictions, according to court records.

Kristianson agreed to hold Iverson, who has not been charged in the incident, without bail.

The judge also ordered him to undergo a 15-day psychiatric evaluation at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake. Kristianson then will hold a hearing to determine if Iverson is competent to stand trial. Deputies drove Iverson to Medical Lake on Wednesday afternoon.

Authorities still have no motive in the shooting. Deputies continued looking for clues Wednesday at the Iverson home, which is surrounded by junked cars and the remnants of a summer vegetable garden.

Bob Davis, also a bus driver for the Orient School District, said he worked with Iverson’s wife at a duty-free shop near the Canadian border for a while. “The family is not what I’d call normal, but that doesn’t mean anything,” he said without elaborating.

Davis also knew Eslick and said the man was well-known and well-liked throughout the scenic Kettle River valley. “He was a great guy, the best,” Davis said.

Eslick drove buses for the Orient School District for more than 15 years and had at least four kids of his own, Davis added. “I subbed for him on Monday,” said Davis, who also picked up Eslick’s route on Wednesday. “He came back Tuesday and got killed. It’s so sad.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Map of area

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