Father of DJ Mathis breaks his silence about his son's mental illness

(FOX19) - Two months to the day after Dennis Mathis buried his 32-year old son DJ, he sifts through pictures, pointing out his favorites to FOX19's Amy Wagner.

"Here's one he was always so proud of, he was 16 and just got his driver's license," Denny Mathis said.

But the pictures of DJ Mathis' childhood or teenage years aren't what he will be remembered by many for.  Instead, Denny Mathis fears, his son will be remembered for the final day of his life, and the very violent act he committed.

"He wasn't a violent person until that last day," Denny said.

On August sixth, DJ Mathis chased his estranged wife, Alisha Waters, into the Fort Thomas office building where she worked and shot her five times. Then he turned the gun and fatally shot himself.  At first, the Mathis family only knew that DJ shot Alisha and thought he had been arrested.

"It was probably several hours after I got the first call from my sister that 2 of my brothers came in and informed us that our son passed away," Mathis said.

Since that day, Mathis spends his waking hours not only dealing with the death of his son, but the final violent act that now defines him.

"I can't defend what he did.  There's no justification and it was a very violent act but it was a mental illness that caused it," Mathis said.

Mathis says Alisha Waters is a victim.  The 31-year-old is now a quadriplegic, but Mathis believes she isn't a victim of domestic violence. He says she's a victim of his son's mental illness. "He had resistant depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety attacks," Mathis said.

Mathis says DJ first started showing signs of mental illness in high school.  When he met Alisha, after graduating from college, he seemed to improve for awhile.

"We were thrilled for them.  She made DJ so happy he would just walk on cloud nine," Mathis said.

But even before they got married, DJ spent some time in a psychiatric ward.

"He voluntarily went to the hospital. Alisha took him and she called us and said they're going to keep him for a couple days for some observation," Mathis said.

Mathis says DJ's mental issues caused the couple to separate several times, until earlier this year when Alisha left for good.

"The last four months I spent so much time with him and just seemed to be getting worse. I was getting books out of the library trying to figure out how I could help him with his depression," Mathis said.

But Mathis says his son, the one in the pictures he sorts through, was never violent. In fact, Mathis says both DJ's psychiatrist and therapist agree that rather than violent tendencies, his mental illness caused him to withdraw. He would go into this recluse in his bedroom and not want to come out," Mathis said.

Alisha Waters did file for a domestic violence protection order in April. She was denied. According to the judge, there was no allegation of domestic violence.

Wagner asked Mathis, "What about threatening Alisha?" He replied, "No, I never heard a threat."

And even the day before the shooting, when DJ purchased the gun he used to shoot Alisha and then himself, Mathis believes his son was still taking medication for his depression.

"He was on medication?" Wagner asked. "Yes," Mathis said.

"Do you know he was taking the medication," Wagner asked. "Yes, I feel very confident he was taking it," Mathis responded.

Which is why this father now spends his days replaying his son's final days. "It continually goes through my mind, what if I had don't this, could I have done that?" Mathis said.

FOX19 has reached out to Alisha Waters' family for their comment on DJ Mathis' mental illness, but they have not yet responded.

The family is petitioning to loosen Kentucky's requirements to get a domestic violence order.  They believe if Alisha would have been able to get one, DJ would have never passed the background check necessary to purchase a gun.

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