BELLEVILLE, Ill. — In the years and months leading up to his shooting rampage in a Washington, D.C., suburb, James T. Hodgkinson was no stranger to loss.
Two girls, both at one point in the care of him and his wife, died — one taking her own life and the other succumbing to a drug overdose, records show.
Authorities identified Hodgkinson, 66, as the man who opened fire on Republican members of Congress and their aides as they practiced for a charity baseball game Wednesday morning. He wounded five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, before being fatally shot by Capitol Police.
On Thursday afternoon, Hodgkinson’s shellshocked wife spoke briefly to reporters outside her home.
Suzanne Hodgkinson didn’t discuss the tragedies in the years before her husband’s death. She also said she didn’t know a lot about what her husband had been doing between January and March because she was busy with her job at a tax firm.
But she said he’d sold off items from his businesses — Hodgkinson’s home inspection company was dissolved, according to state licensing records — and told her he was going to Washington to work on tax policy.
She learned about the shootings while at work on Wednesday during a telephone call from a television reporter.
“I had no idea this was going to happen and I don’t know what to say about it. I can’t wrap my head around it,” she said.
Suzanne Hodgkinson said repeatedly that she saw no signs her husband was planning violence. She said he talked a lot about politics but, when pressed, said she didn’t want to discuss her husband’s views. He’d been a vocal opponent of the Republican Party.
Asked about her husband’s decision to leave home for an extended period of time, Hodgkinson said that her daughter and two-year-old granddaughter had recently moved home. Her husband was at home all day with them, she said, and she thought he might have wanted a break.
“I’m sorry that he did this but there’s nothing I can do about it,” she said.
It’s not the Hodgkinson family’s first exposure to tragedy.
The Hodgkinson’s foster daughter, Wanda Ashley Stock, killed herself in 1996 on a rural road in Smithton Township, according to the St. Clair County coroner’s office and a report in the Belleville News-Democrat.
Stock, 17, was in a car when she set herself on fire and died of fourth-degree burns.
In 2002, Hodgkinson and his wife were declared legal guardians of 12-year-old Cathy Lynn Putnam, court records show. In 2005, Hodgkinson and his wife did not file an annual report with the court, and they were briefly dismissed as guardians before reassuming the role.
In July 2006, a judge ordered the girl to be returned to the custody of the state’s Department of Children and Family Services, but court records do not shed light on the judge’s decision.
In a letter to the judge dated December 2006, the Hodgkinsons wrote to the judge regarding his later decision to grant custody of Cathy Lynn to neighbors of the Hodgkinsons.
The Hodgkinsons said Cathy Lynn living just a few houses away was “a quite stressful and uncomfortable situation for our family.”
Those neighbors, who have since moved, could not be reached for comment.
The coroner’s office said Cathy Lynn died in 2015 of an accidental drug overdose, and it was not clear if or when the girl was ever returned to the Hodgkinsons’ custody. A spokeswoman for DCFS could not comment on the specifics of the case.
A source told the Chicago Sun-Times that the Hodgkinsons were licensed foster parents from 1990 to 2003.
Fred Widel, who moved in just a few hundred yards from the Hodgkinsons three years ago, said that Hodgkinson mentioned he was retiring late last year.
“He was telling me he was going to retire, he was tired of it and he’s getting older,” Widel said. “He couldn’t move around like he used to.”
After his home-inspection company dissolved, Widel said he bought a tool from Hodgkinson, who also eventually sold the truck he used for work.
Contributing: Associated Press