TAUNTON — The family of Arthur J. DaRosa said Wednesday that the man’s violent spree that left two dead could have been prevented if the hospital where he’d sought treatment for a mental illness had not released him the morning of the attacks.
“If Morton [Hospital] could have done a little bit more and kept him there, none of this would have happened,” said DaRosa’s aunt, Liz DaRosa. “He wanted the help. He asked for help.”
Family members said Wednesday that DaRosa, 28, had been having suicidal thoughts and had recently lost weight. His aunt said he had long suffered from depression and was manic. She said he was not taking medication.
“He had his good days and he had his bad days,” his aunt told reporters.
An ambulance picked DaRosa up from his family’s Myrtle Street home at 5 p.m. on Monday and he was discharged from Morton Hospital in Taunton at 4 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said. The attacks took place about 15 hours later when DaRosa stabbed four people at a home and the Silver City Galleria mall, killing two. He was shot and killed by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.
“It’s a disgrace how someone goes in for help, they want help, and no one does nothing,” Liz DaRosa said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
A hospital spokesperson said the facility could not discuss patient information or even acknowledge whether it had treated someone. She said the hospital extended its “thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims of yesterday’s events.”
A spokesman for the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said the agency “will fully cooperate with law enforcement during the ongoing criminal investigation and will carefully review the details of this situation.”
Liz DaRosa said her nephew had confided in his sister about how he was feeling, and she called for an ambulance Monday.
Scott Blackwell, 36, of East Taunton and a longtime family friend, said DaRosa also shared with him last summer that something was wrong.
“He tried to get help because he didn’t want to hurt himself,” Blackwell said.
But others said there were no signs that DaRosa was troubled. He worked as a laborer, and was a caring father to two daughters, 3 and 5.
“He didn’t show much symptoms,” said Latisha Amado, a cousin. “He just had a breakdown.”
DaRosa’s longtime girlfriend and the mother of his two daughters, Samantha Shaheen, said in a statement that DaRosa’s actions were not foreseen. “There was no indication whatsoever,” she said.
DaRosa “was a good father,” the statement said, although Shaheen “has been the primary and almost exclusive caregiver,” after the couple separated about a month ago.
But court records show a brief violent period in his life.
In 2007, an ex-girlfriend took a restraining order out on DaRosa when he kicked her car after an argument. He violated the restraining order several times, including an assault on his former girlfriend and a male friend, according to court records. Charges against DaRosa were dismissed.
That same year, DaRosa was charged with assault and battery after he went to a gas station to fight another man following an argument about an ex-girlfriend. That case was also dismissed.
In 2008, he was found guilty of drug possession charges, with intent to distribute, and was sentenced to 9 months in jail, according to court records. During a traffic stop, police found two bags of crack cocaine and a scale under the seat of a car that DaRosa was riding in.
“This was just a one time thing. . . . I just needed to make some money,” DaRosa told police during his arrest, according to records.
The following year in June, DaRosa’s cousin David Alves, who also lived on Myrtle Street at the time, accused him of attacking him and damaging his home with a bat. Charges were dismissed.
Five months later, DaRosa was sentenced in a separate case to a year of probation after he was found guilty of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, motor vehicle damage, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The details in that case were not available Wednesday.
But neighbors said they knew DaRosa as a genial man who was part of a family known as kind and welcoming.
He grew up on Myrtle Street in a home where a statue of the Virgin Mary was planted on the lawn near a small wooden cross and yellow tulips.
Many of his acquaintances in Taunton knew DaRosa as “AJ” — a well-mannered boy who always greeted neighbors with a friendly hello or wave. As a teenager, he played basketball with others in the neighborhood at a hoop on the street.
“AJ as a kid never caused any trouble,” said Wendy Mason, 36, who has lived two doors down from the DaRosa family for 17 years. “He’d play basketball in the street, and always asked the younger kids if they wanted to play.”
But her father remembered a rougher side to DaRosa.
“He got into a fight with the [kid] across the way a few years ago,” said Dave Mason, 71.
Another daughter insisted it was “just a typical neighborhood fight.”
“I never knew anyone to be afraid of him,” said Nicole Mason, 40.
Nicole Mason said she visited her parents Monday afternoon and saw DaRosa talking to an ambulance driver in front of his family’s home.
“He wasn’t on a stretcher or anything. He was standing up talking to them,” she said.
Another neighbor, Tom Shana, said he saw a fire truck pull up to the home, but was waved off by the ambulance crew. That was the last they saw of DaRosa, they said.
Shana, who moved to the neighborhood 18 months ago, said he met DaRosa last summer when his family invited him to a backyard gathering.
“He was a nice young man,” Shana said. “He talked to me that day, to kids that were there. It would not seem like he would harm someone.”
Shana recalled being awakened one morning last year by what he thought was a basketball bouncing outside.
“But it was him [DaRosa] teaching his sister how to box, I guess. He had gloves on, and he was pounding her hands, like he was showing her some moves,” Shana said.
Blackwell, a family friend, said DaRosa was an amateur middleweight boxer.
“He was actually a really good kid,” Blackwell said.