Psychologist’s murder remains mystery

By The National Psychologist Editor
January 1, 2006 - Last updated: May 31, 2011

Police report no suspects in the slaying of Ira Polonsky, Ph.D., in his Vallejo, Calif., office building on Nov. 1.

Polonsky, 64, was found just after 6 p.m. bleeding from a shotgun blast to the abdomen after police and medical workers responded to a 911 call and found him in a hallway of the office building where he saw patients two days a week. He was taken to nearby Kaiser Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

A nationally recognized authority on practice building, Polonsky spent the other workdays at his publishing business, PHP Publications, in Oakland, Calif. He and his wife, Ronnie, have two grown sons.

Polonsky was a regular contributor to The National Psychologist and directed the Solano County Mental Health Outpatient Clinic from 1973 to 1983. He also conducted workshops on practice building and sometimes worked as a consultant.

In his Vallejo practice, which he had maintained since 1973, Polonsky specialized in weight control and hypnotherapy. He was well-liked by friends, neighbors and those clients who have come forward since he was killed. Two former clients raised $1,000 to match a $1,000 reward posted by Solano Crime Stoppers for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Witnesses reported seeing a white man enter the office building, which Polonsky shared with other psychologists and professionals, but a sketch released by police was of limited help because the man wore a ski mask and witnesses could only describe his eyes, eyebrows and nose visible through the mask.

Family members suspect the killer may have been a current or former client, but police have been stymied in pursuing that line of investigation because of confidentiality laws protecting Polonsky’s patient records and appointment books.

Vallejo police detectives are in touch with a court-appointed attorney – a “special master” – who is working with the county court to see if there can be at least a limited review of protected records, but neither police nor court officials will comment on progress in that area.

Polonsky was a tall, slender soft-spoken man with a beard whom one former client reportedly described as “a wizened, Jewish Yoda.”

On a personal note, the staff of The National Psychologist offers sincere condolences to Ira’s family. We will miss his pleasant disposition and his authoritative contributions to the newspaper.

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