Carolyn “Zoom” Piksa was no stranger to violence.
Nearly 30 years ago, when she was a teenager, her sister and brother-in-law were shot to death in Tacoma by a man who never explained why.
Last year, Piksa’s beloved dog Roulette was killed during a break-in at her Burien home, according to her nephew Cody Shearer.
He said Piksa was devastated after the loss of her dog and was frightened to return home, sometimes sleeping in her car.
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“I think it was just too much for her,” Shearer said.
Piksa, a longtime Seattle Parks and Recreation Department employee, is suspected of shooting a co-worker and menacing a second with a handgun Friday at two parks buildings in North Seattle.
The shooting touched off a lengthy search that prompted nearby schools to keep students inside and several community centers to close.
Seattle police allege in court documents that Piksa shot Bill Keller, the executive director of the Associated Recreation Council (ARC), just before 2 p.m. at a parks-maintenance building at North 82nd Street and Densmore Avenue North. ARC oversees the programs at the city’s community centers.
Piksa, 46, then drove to the Bitter Lake Community Center, where she confronted a female employee, according to the document of probable cause. The employee was able to escape and Piksa stole her purse and fled, police said.
Keller, 65, who was shot in the chest, was taken to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition. On Saturday, his condition was upgraded to serious.
Police used Piksa’s cellphone signal to trace her to her home in Burien, where she was arrested around 5 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, Piksa waived her appearance at a bail hearing at the King County Jail.
A judge found probable cause to hold her on investigation of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. Bail was set at $1 million.
A handful of Piksa’s relatives and friends were in the jailhouse courtroom but declined to comment after the hearing.
Piksa’s next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, the deadline for filing charges, according to Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
Piksa — who earned the nickname “Zoom” for her skill as a softball pitcher — has been a Seattle Parks Department employee since 1986.
She is an assistant coordinator for community centers and worked at several around the city, including Miller Community Center and Montlake Community Center, according to city records.
Police said in court documents that Piksa told officers that she shot Keller and
confronted the unnamed woman. Police have not disclosed a possible motive for the shooting, nor Piksa’s relationship with Keller.
In a telephone interview before the hearing, Shearer, 29, described his aunt as a wonderful person who was loved and supported by her family. He also said she was fragile.
“A lot of events have led up to this,” said Shearer, of Seattle.
He said that the murder of his parents — Piksa’s older sister and brother-in-law — had a profound effect on her.
Piksa’s personality changed after her sister’s 1985 murder, according to a Green River Community College classmate and friend, who asked not to be named.
“That really upset Carolyn and she was never quite the same after that. It was pretty devastating,” the friend said.
According to newspaper accounts, Stewart Shearer, 30, was found dead in the family’s Tacoma home. The body of Shelly Stewart, 23, was discovered in a Pierce County graveyard. Their son Cody, who was 2 at the time, was found clinging to his mother’s body.
The mentally ill brother of a friend of the slain couple was eventually arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murders.
More recently, according to her stepmother, Piksa was distraught over the death of her father 2½ years ago. She had not agreed with her family’s decision to take him off life support, Sandy Piksa said.
And then in the middle of last year, burglars broke into Piksa’s home in Burien, killed her dog and ransacked the home.
She had to take a leave from work and was on disability for post-traumatic stress disorder after that, Shearer said.
“She didn’t feel safe in her house and was sleeping at other people’s houses or in her car or not at all,” he said.
At one point, he said, relatives were so concerned after finding her clothes inside her parked car that they filed a missing-person report.
Shearer said his aunt had sought to have her leave extended, but was told she had to return to work at the Parks Department or face termination.
A spokeswoman for the department declined to comment Saturday.
Piksa was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm in Marion County, Ore., in November and a warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to appear for a court date in December, court records show.
Christine Clarridge: firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983
Alexa Vaughn: email@example.com or 206-464-2515
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.