Picture of killer emerges

He was a quiet, sullen loner whose gory writings troubled his classmates and teachers.


Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-hui also left a long, rambling note before setting off on his killing spree, railing against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.

"You caused me to do this," the South Korean student wrote.

News reports said Cho may have been taking medication for depression and that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic.

Others said Cho recently set a fire in a dorm room and had stalked some women.

But despite the many warning signs that came to light in the bloody aftermath, police and university officials have offered no clues as to exactly what set Cho off on the deadliest shooting rampage in modern US history.

"He was a loner, and we're having difficulty finding information about him," school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

"We always joked we were just waiting for him to do something, waiting to hear about something he did," said classmate Stephanie Derry. "But when I got the call it was Cho who had done this, I started crying, bawling."

In the end Cho's writings may serve as his last testament and offer the only clues to his motive.

Fellow students provided obscenity and violence-laced screenplays written by Cho as part of a playwriting class.

One was about a fight between a stepson and his stepfather, and involved throwing of hammers and attacks with a chainsaw. Another was about students fantasising about stalking and killing a teacher who sexually molested them.

"When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of," said former classmate Ian MacFarlane.

Cho was "what one would typically think of as a 'school shooter' — a loner, obsessed with violence, and serious personal problems," Macfarlane said in an article posted with links to the two plays, "Richard McBeef" and "Mr Brownstone."

Cho's writings were shocking enough that a professor had pulled him from class, CNN reported.

"There were several of us in English who became concerned when we had him in class, for various reasons. And so I contacted some people to try to get some help for him because I was deeply concerned," Lucinda Roy, one of Cho's professors said.

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said Cho's writing was so disturbing that he had been referred to the university's counselling service.

"Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be," Rude said.

“But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

Cho – who arrived in the United States as a boy from South Korea in 1992 and was raised in suburban Washington, DC, where his parents worked at a dry cleaner – left a note that was found after the bloodbath.

A law enforcement official described Cho's note as a typed, eight-page rant against rich kids and religion.

Cho indicated in his letter that the end was near and that there was a deed to be done, the official said.

He also expressed disappointment in his own religion, and made several references to Christianity.

The letter was either found in Cho's dorm room or in his backpack. The backpack was found in the hallway of the classroom building where the shootings happened, and contained several rounds of ammunition, the official said.

Monday's rampage consisted of two attacks, more than two hours apart – first at a dormitory, where two people were killed, then inside a classroom building, where 31 people, including Cho, died.

Two handguns – a Glock 9mm and a .22-calibre semi-automatic – were found in the classroom building.

Law enforcement officials said Cho's fingerprints were on both guns, whose serial numbers had been filed off.

One law enforcement official said Cho's backpack contained a receipt for a March purchase of a Glock 9mm pistol.

Cho held a green card, meaning he was a legal, permanent resident. That meant he was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony.

Shash said Cho spent a lot of his free time playing basketball and would not respond if someone greeted him.

Classmates painted a similar picture. Some said that on the first day of a British literature class last year, the 30 or so students went around and introduced themselves. When it was Cho's turn, he didn't speak.

On the sign-in sheet where everyone else had written their names, Cho had written a question mark. "Is your name, 'Question mark?'" classmate Julie Poole recalled the professor asking. The young man offered little response.

Cho spent much of that class sitting in the back of the room, wearing a hat and seldom participating. In a small department, he distinguished himself for being anonymous. "He didn't reach out to anyone. He never talked," Poole said.

"We just really knew him as the question mark kid," Poole said.

A memorial for the victims

Yesterday afternoon, thousands of people gathered in the university's basketball arena for a memorial service for the victims, with an overflow crowd of thousands watching on a jumbo TV screen in the football stadium. President George W Bush and the First Lady attended.

As darkness fell, thousands of Virginia Tech students, faculty and area residents poured into the centre of campus to grieve together. They held thousands of candles aloft as speakers urged them to find solace in one another.

Most of the vigil was devoted to silence and quiet reflection.

As the silence spread across the grassy bowl of the drill field, a pair of trumpets began to play taps. A few in the crowd began to sing the hymn "Amazing Grace."

"We will move on from this. But it will take the strength of each other to do that," said Zenobia Hikes, vice president for student affairs.

"We want the world to know we are Virginia Tech, we will recover, we will survive with your prayers."

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