AUBURN, Maine -- An Auburn man who shot and killed his mother before being fatally shot by police was a paranoid schizophrenic whose outburst might have been triggered by the suspension of his driver's license, family members said.
James Michael Peters was prone to delusions and tantrums when he didn't take his medication, and he often didn't, Paul McGrath, an uncle of Peters, told the Sun Journal of Lewiston.
On March 30, Peters turned 42. That was also the day his license expired.
Peters went into a rage at not being able to drive, McGrath said. By the time the day was over, police said, Peters had shot his mother in the head before being fatally shot himself.
Despite his long history of mental illness, his refusal to take medication, and his volatility, that day was the first time Peters had become violent, friends and family members said.
When his mother called the Bureau of Motor Vehicles the day before the shootings to plead his case for mental competency, Peters ranted in the background. And he later raged when his mother spoke to McGrath for an hour on the phone that night.
"He was all upset. He was screaming and hollering because he lost his license," said McGrath, who lives in Massachusetts.
The standoff between Peters and police began at 10:30 a.m. after Peters shot his 70-year-old mother, Margaret , with a shotgun, police said. In the ensuing 16-hour standoff, her body remained in the driveway of her home, where Peters lived in a basement apartment.
Police last week confirmed that a shotgun blast from a law enforcement officer killed Peters. But there has been little explanation about what sparked the episode.
As a teenager, Peters was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, his uncle said. When he used his medication, the illness was nearly undetectable. He graduated from Auburn's Edward Little High School in 1984.
But it was often a struggle to get him to take his medications. For decades, his father handled the situation.
"He was able to control the son somewhat and make sure he took his medicines," McGrath said.
But in 2005, a few years after moving to Auburn, the father died.
A year later, the oldest son also died, leaving Peters and his mother alone in the house.
Peters lived in the basement, with his mother upstairs. When he was lucid he took his mother, who didn't drive, shopping and to doctors' appointments . She made his meals and looked after him in their neat home.
But when the mental health of Peters declined, life wasn't so easy. Neighbors said they sometimes heard him screaming at his mother or shooting a gun behind their house.
In recent months he began refusing to drive his mother . His outbursts became more frequent, and he often claimed that someone was out to get him.
At some point, someone -- either a doctor, a police officer, or a family member -- called the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to say Michael wasn't competent to drive.
The bureau flagged his license and asked him for a medical evaluation.
Michael didn't respond to the first letter, McGrath said, and he received a second letter shortly before his 42d birthday telling him his license would be suspended as of April 7. But without renewal, his license was scheduled to expire on March 30, his birthday.
McGrath said he won't lay blame in the shooting, although he wonders if he could have prevented it.
"Maybe we should have seen the continuing hostility was something that should have been paid more attention to," he said.