Father of man accused of killing his mother speaks

January 20, 2011 3:22:16 AM PST
For the first time, we're getting new insight to a crime that shocked an affluent neighborhood: a son accused of killing his mother.

John Shank was supposed to be in court on Wednesday; instead the hearing was postponed, and his father took the opportunity to share the some of the family's struggle with mental illness.

It's been a month and a half since screams gave way to tragedy on Overbrook Lane; the Christmas lights are no longer up, but the pain is still fresh.

Dan Shank, a prominent attorney, spoke publicly for the first time since his 20-year-old son, John, was charged with stabbing to death his own mother.

It happened on a cold December afternoon near River Oaks. Houston police found Nancy Shank dead on the family's entry room floor. John Shank had left the home covered in blood but was arrested on the Katy Freeway within the hour.

Soon we learned the Kinkaid graduate had been hospitalized twice last year for mental illness. Neighbors that day told us they had recently witnessed a problem.

"He threatened to jump and the fire department and everybody was here but he didn't jump," neighbor Howard Smith said.

Outside a Harris County courtroom on Wednesday, his father elaborated.

"Let me say this, historically, my son was a wonderful young man. He's obviously suffering from mental illness. This is a tragedy for me, my wife, for my daughter and for my son. Mental illness is a very difficult thing to deal with and I firmly believe that this was a result of a psychotic break," said Dan Shank. "We have been trying to help him deal with mental issues, and unfortunately it just didn't work out."

While John Shank's bond is set at half a million dollars, there are no plans to bond him out. Not surprisingly, his defense will be based on mental disease, says his attorney. His father, right now, isn't asking for much.

"I'd like the criminal justice system to treat him appropriately and I think that needs to be worked out with the lawyers and the district attorney's office," Dan Shank said.

While he's still reeling from his wife's death, his attorney says Dan Shank continues to visit his son in jail. He is getting some treatment there. His next court date is set for February 22.