Demons at Rest
His suicide renewed debate over whether Salvi, an erratic loner who pleaded insanity at his trial and had been diagnosed by defense psychiatrists as a paranoid schizophrenic, had ever been mentally fit to be treated as a criminal. In recent months, Salvi struck up a correspondence with Richard Seron, a security guard wounded at one of the clinics where Salvi had gone on his bloody rampage. Salvi's rambling letters were laced with white supremacist cant and references to Satan. "As a layman, I would be inclined to say he was a very sick person," says Seron. While not excusing her son's actions, Ann Marie Salvi voiced bitterness over his treatment and asked for an inquiry into his death. "My young John is gone," she told Boston's WBZ radio immediately afterward, "but there are others who will continue to suffer in prisons instead of in a mental hospital where they belong." (Gov. William Weld promised a full investigation of the death.)
Yet relatives of the two victims, Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38, point out that had Salvi been found insane and sent to a mental institution, under state law he would have been eligible for release if pronounced cured. In the end, they seem to believe, justice was done. "Experts said he was sane, and experts said he was incompetent. Who were we to believe?" asks Ruth Nichols, Lee Ann's mother. "John is now meeting his maker, and that's who will decide."