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Holly Marie Colino, 31, of Arizona, was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, both felonies, in the shooting death of Megan Dix.
Olivia Lopez and Shawn Dowd

Until more is known about Holly Marie Colino, there is no answer to the question of why she allegedly approached the pickup where Megan Dix was taking a lunch break Friday afternoon, and shot and killed the woman.

But that doesn’t stop the speculation.

“We often want to put our ideas into someone else’s head,” said Dr. Eric Caine, professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The apparent randomness of the act is too much to fathom, so people will fill in the gaps on their own. A common theory in Facebook comments and likely in many watercooler conversations is that Colino is mentally ill.

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“People abhor the idea that ‘I can’t explain it,’ Caine said. “When someone says, ‘she must have been thinking this, he must have been thinking that’ when they do something, that’s what I’m thinking would have been the motivation.”

But having a mental illness doesn’t mean someone is or will be violent, according to mental health professionals.

“That’s a stigma,” said Pauline Stahlbrodt, a psychologist and clinical manager of the Evelyn Brandon Health Center, part of Rochester Regional Health. “Someone with a mental illness has the same risk for violence as the general population.”

From 3 percent to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. People with mental illness are more likely than people in the general population to be victims of violence.

“We go back to the thing that is going to make me most comfortable is if I can explain this,” Stahlbrodt said.

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Colino was charged Tuesday with the felonies of second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in the shooting death of Dix, 33, of Lyndonville, Orleans County.

Colino, who had lived in the Rochester area, resided in Arizona and came back here a few days before the incident.

Holly Marie Colino (Photo: Provided)

Caine, who is not a forensic psychiatrist that specializes in mental health and the law, said that most homicides stem from so-called turf battles or from intimate relationships. He said cases of the recent high-profile homicides of Craig Rideout and the Genesee Street shootings could be examples.

He said that most people who commit homicide do not have a major mental disorder such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

“They may have personality problems, but that isn’t viewed in the law as a mitigating factor,” he said. “Being a jerk or being a nasty person is not a mental disorder. Let’s be clear. We have a lot of really bad people who don’t have mental illness. They may not care about anyone else. They may be callous, they may be people we never want to associate with … they may be really hard to understand because they don’t share our values about care, love and support for other people. That doesn’t make them have a mental disorder.”

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Caine said that in cases of major mental disorders, those conditions can develop at different stages of life. A person with a major mental disorder still may be able to understand the gravity of their actions.

However, it can be common for people to ascribe mental illness to actions that seem out of the ordinary.

On Feb. 29, 2012, The College at Brockport police were called to the theater in Hartwell Hall for a disturbance at a speech by Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book Dead Man Walking. University Police reported that Colino was standing in front of the audience and challenging Prejean. Colino was escorted from the theater. In the report, police noted that Colino “has some probable mental issues that she might be dealing with.” After Colino had left, Prejean commented that someone moved to stand up in front of a group should be respected for their passion.

Caine said that piecing together someone’s mental status is like taking a series of snapshots — how someone was as a child, in high school, at work, in their relationships — and turning them into a movie. That provides a more complete picture.

“We can’t fill the empty space with just that she is mentality ill,” he said. The statement ‘I don’t know’ doesn’t equal ‘she must be mentally ill.’”

PSINGER@Gannett.com

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