"I don't recall that there were ever any cars coming in to visit or any people associating with him," said Marwan Wafa, who lived across the street from Pickett before moving last summer. "He was really always by himself."
Lewis Gates, another neighbor, who said he last saw Pickett in December, said he was taken aback by the news he heard from Washington yesterday. "As far as I knew," he said, "he was an outstanding neighbor."
Pickett lives in the same house where his parents lived before they died, his mother in 1987 and his father in 1995. The suspect held a job as a tax-return reviewer with the IRS in the mid-1980s but was fired for absenteeism and poor performance, according to Joseph A. Yocum, an Evansville lawyer who represented him at a hearing in which Pickett challenged his termination. Yocum said Pickett lost the review and chose not to appeal.
But in 1994, Pickett filed a federal lawsuit in which he charged that the government had repeatedly betrayed him - starting with his dropping out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and extending to the IRS dismissal.
In that suit, Pickett revealed that he suffered from mental illness and had tried to commit suicide. The lawsuit was thrown out by a judge.
"I think he always recognized he had a problem," Yocum said. "He just couldn't deal with it. He wasn't happy with himself. Things hadn't turned out the way he wished."
Yocum said Pickett had inherited money from his parents. But it is unclear why Pickett had sought out a treatment center on the East Coast. In his suit, Pickett said he had suffered a "severe depression episode" before being treated in Baltimore.
The attorney said Pickett did not have a drug problem but suffered from psychological problems. Pickett has no criminal record in Evansville or in Maryland.
Fellowship House, which has existed for at least 30 years under different owners - including affiliations with Johns Hopkins Hospital and Mercy Medical Center - is a voluntary treatment center that houses up to 16 patients.
The average stay is three to six months, and patients are encouraged to seek jobs or outside counseling while at the center. Its credo is "Helping in the move towards independent living."
There are no signs on the building, a four-story red-brick rowhouse, two blocks north of the Washington Monument. Visitors must be buzzed in. People inside can leave only by entering a code or being buzzed out by an employee.
Steven J. Vaccaro, the project director of Fellowship House, said he could not comment on patients the center has treated in the past.
Yesterday's shooting comes just as Bush was considering the idea of reopening the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to traffic. It was closed in 1995, after the Oklahoma City bombing made authorities in Washington fearful of a similar incident there.
Critics of that decision have long said it was inappropriate to limit public access to a building often called "America's house."
Fleischer said yesterday that Bush has spoken with Mayor Anthony A. Williams about opening the street but had made no final decision. Fleischer said he did not know whether the incident yesterday would affect Bush's decision.
Wire services contributed to this article.