The stepsister of the man who fatally shot three people in a Colorado Walmart Wednesday, Nov. 1, said her stepbrother is not the murderous monster that he is portrayed as, but a sick man who was never treated for his demons.
Michelle Willoughby, 43, told The Denver Post her 47-year-old stepbrother Scott Ostrem was an outgoing and social person until he took LSD at a party in 1988.
“When he came home he was terrified. He had voices in his head. Demons. My brother was freaking out,” she told the Post. “He was screaming that the devil was after him.”
The family sent him to the hospital, she said, but he only received medication, and to her knowledge, has never seen a psychiatrist.
A local priest began visiting Ostem three times a week, she recalled, and she remembers seeing him putting a crucifix on his head and commanding the demons to come out.
But after the priest died, Ostrem became reclusive, and lost contact with the family, including her.
“He went off the grid. Nobody could find him. Not one person on the face of the Earth knew where he was,” Willoughby said.
Ostrem was working as a metal fabricator for B&M Roofing at the time of the attack.
Without telling anyone, he walked off his job that day and drove to the Walmart in Thorton, about 9 miles north of Denver.
There he took out a handgun and fired randomly, killing three: Pamela Marques, 52; Carlos Moreno, 66; and Victor Vasquez, 26.
He fled in his car, but police found him and arrested him when he got stuck in traffic.
Willoughby attributes Ostrem’s violent attack to his isolation, lack of treatment, and his inability to put things into perspective.
“My brother is not this monster,” she said. “He is not cold blooded. He hears these voices. … I believe there is only so much a person can take.”
David Heidt, Ostrem’s employer, told the Post that Ostrem was a good employee, and while he mostly kept to himself, saying only “Hello,” “Good morning,” “See you later,” he also didn’t get into any conflicts.
“I guess the word that comes to mind is ‘bewildered,’” said Heidt after the shooting. “He was a very good employee. We had no problems with him.”
Willoughby said she hardly recognizes her stepbrother—he’s lost so much weight since she last saw him and his voice has changed.
Law enforcement officials told Denver7 that they were looking into Ostrem’s mental health history, which could be a factor in his case.
He faces six counts of first-degree murder, 30 counts of attempted first-degree murder and a sentencing enhancer if he’s convicted for the shooting. He could face up to life in prison or face the death penalty if he is found guilty of the murder charges.
However, if is he is found to be mentally incompetent, state law would bar him from being put to death.