Congressional shooter’s wife tormented by husband’s attack

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Suzanne Hodgkinson talks to reporters in June 2017 about her husband, James Hodgkinson. With her is St. Clair County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Richard Wagner (right). James T. Hodgkinson, shot and wounded a Republican congressman and several others before being fatally wounded by police; Suzanne Hodgkinson said her husband went to Washington, D.C. because he wanted to work on tax policy. | Kaley Johnson/Belleville News-Democrat, distributed by the Associated Press

BELLEVILLE, Ill. — The widow of a man who wounded a congressman and four others in a shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice said she is tormented by thoughts that she could have done more to help her increasingly angry husband.

Suzanne Hodgkinson said her husband James was once a fun-loving man who changed after a long illness in the 1990s. He would throw dishes at his wife, yell at the television and went “bananas” after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, she told The New York Times.

“I get up every morning feeling guilty because I didn’t stop it,” Hodgkinson said.

She spoke in an interview Wednesday at her home in Belleville, Illinois, about the June 14 attack in Alexandria, Virginia, that critically injured a Republican congressman and wounded four others. Law officers fatally shot her husband.

“I wake up with hot sweats, thinking: ‘You should have known. You should have known,'” she said.

But Suzanne Hodgkinson, 65, said she also wants to quickly lay to rest her husband’s remains and hopes the negative attention on her family will end soon.

On Tuesday, Hodgkinson was asked via email to formally identify her husband’s body. She has asked a funeral home that a friend owns to cremate her husband’s body. She will scatter the ashes at home or bury them in nearby St. Louis. No ceremony or public remembrance is planned.

“Coldhearted as it may be, I’m done,” Hodgkinson said. “He was not a religious man, and I’m done with this. I want this to get over. I want my granddaughters to be able to go to school in September without this being dredged up.”

She then spoke as if her husband was sitting on the couch next to her: “You just walked out on me.”

Neighbors have urged her not to mow the lawn, fearing she’ll be attacked. A friend disperses her trash around town to avoid snoops. Recently, a stranger walked up to her at a grocery store and slapped her across the face. She cried all the way home.

“That was O.K.,” Hodgkinson said. “Get it out, lady. Just don’t pick up a gun and shoot somebody.”

Hodgkinson said her husband was not a bad man. She was happy when the two met and married in 1984. They eventually took in 35 foster children and adopted two.

It was during the 2016 presidential campaign that he began to rage about politics. He supported Sen. Bernie Sanders and went “bananas” when Donald Trump won, she said.

She urged him to take action locally but he left for Washington in March, saying he was leaving to work on tax reform. In emails to his family, he expressed frustration with Washington’s intransigence.

When she first heard about the attack in the Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital, it briefly occurred to her that her husband might have done it. But, she said, she decided it couldn’t be him because reports said the shooter had a rifle and he had taken only a pistol to Washington.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise has undergone several surgeries and remains at Medstar Washington Hospital Center. Also injured were a lobbyist, a congressional aide and two U.S. Capitol Police officers, who have all been released from the hospital.

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