About a week ago, Mark Richard Hilbun left Kim Springer the final and most frightening of a string of obsessive notes. "I love you," it read. "I'm going to kill us both and take us both to hell."
Hilbun, 38, a diagnosed manic-depressive who was fired from his job as a mail carrier last year, was obsessed with Springer, also a mail carrier, for more than a year.
He called often to profess his love for her--even though she barely knew him--left notes at her home and office, and followed her on her mail route, according to Springer's boyfriend.
Then, on Thursday morning, Hilbun calmly walked into the Dana Point post office where they had both worked, yelled "Kim! Kim!" and allegedly opened fire with a handgun, killing a male co-worker and wounding a male clerk. Springer, who hid under a shelf, was not hurt.
Hilbun, who suffers severe bouts of depression, was committed to a mental hospital for two weeks last summer after being arrested on charges of drunk driving and resisting a police officer. But he was being treated with lithium, and his attorney, Donald Glenn Rubright, said he thought Hilbun was getting better. Rubright was shocked when he learned about Thursday's fatal shootings.
"Oh, my God," said Rubright, a Santa Ana defense lawyer who represented Hilbun in the drunk driving case. "Mark was somebody who had no criminal record before this incident last year. He was in his mid-30s, had been in the military, had never been in trouble. He has been in and out of depression, but I'm stunned by this."
Todd Granquist, who lived across the street from Hilbun's apartment for about two years, remembers Hilbun as "very odd." Hilbun, who is single, rarely socialized and mostly kept to himself.
One morning last fall, Granquist said, Hilbun went to work at the post office with his underwear on his head and one of his pet rabbits in a mailbag.
"He had a lot of problems," Granquist said of Hilbun. "He was very odd. . . . Normal people don't act like that."
Rubright said the first sign that Hilbun was troubled came last June, when he was stopped by a California Highway Patrol officer in Lakewood for driving 70 m.p.h. on the San Diego Freeway.
When the officer tried to give him a sobriety test, Hilbun ran back to his truck and sped away, clipping the officer's knee with his vehicle, court records show.
Soon afterward, Hilbun was arrested for assault on a police officer, driving under the influence and resisting arrest. He was committed for 72 hours to a psychiatric hospital, where doctors diagnosed his manic-depressive condition. His hospital stay was extended for two weeks and doctors put him on the drug lithium, which Rubright said seemed to help.
"He had some serious psychiatric difficulties. . . . But he was not violent. Not at all," Rubright said.
Rubright said Hilbun was fired by the Postal Service because of his psychiatric problems and had been trying to get his position back. "It was a career for him," Rubright said. "He wanted his job back."
Rubright said he spoke to Hilbun recently and was pleased to learn that Hilbun had just completed the community service required in his sentence.
"I chatted with him during the last couple weeks," Rubright said. "He didn't say anything about problems or difficulties at that time."
Court records show that Hilbun was arrested Nov. 30 for a harassing phone call to Springer. But the case was dismissed five days before it was to go to trial, Rubright said, after Springer decided against pursuing the charges because Hilbun was undergoing treatment.
"She was concerned about Mark," the attorney said. "But it was not the type of situation where he threatened to do bodily harm to her. He wanted a relationship with her, he wanted to go out with her."
But Steve Eberhardt, Springer's boyfriend for the last three years, said Hilbun was becoming increasingly frightening.
Eberhardt said Hilbun had been harassing Springer, 29, of Laguna Beach, since last year, saying that he couldn't live without her. She rebuffed all his overtures.
The threats got so bad, Eberhardt said, that she took last week off. Thursday was her first day back at work.
Eberhardt said he rushed to the post office after he heard that a shooting had occurred. "I was crying all the way down here, I was so worried, but I guess she wasn't hurt," he said. "I'm beyond relieved."
One postal worker said the shooting did not surprise him or his co-workers.
"We'd been expecting it," said the postal carrier, who asked to remain anonymous, "because he was that type of person. He had some mental problems. He was supposed to be on medication, but he came off it."
Times staff writers Matt Lait, Frank Messina and Tim Chou contributed to this story.