Image: Students mourn slain classmate
Thomas Cooper  /  Pool via AP
Classmates Claire Holman, back left, and Tamika Aumiller, center, hug while an unidentified student touches a portrait of slain Platte Canyon High School student Emily Keyes after a memorial service in Bailey, Colo., on Saturday.
updated 9/30/2006 6:10:26 PM ET 2006-09-30T22:10:26

The family of a 16-year-old girl who was held hostage, assaulted and killed at her school urged mourners Saturday to remember her with random acts of kindness and not negative thoughts.

“We have the power to do this,” family spokesman Louis Gonzales said. “Let’s take the random act that has occurred and turn it to random acts of kindness.”

Emily Keyes was shot in the head Wednesday as she fled Duane Morrison, who had held her and six other girls hostage. Morrison killed himself after a SWAT team stormed the classroom.

Several thousand people turned out in the small mountain community for a memorial at the National Farmers Union Education Center. Pink ribbons lined the road, tied to ponderosa pines.

“Emily was a part of my life and a part of all of your lives, and I know that,” her twin brother, Casey, said. “And that part was torn away and stolen this Wednesday. But the part of us that can never be torn away and never be stolen is the love and strength that keeps us together.”

The crowd greeted Sheriff Fred Wegener with a standing ovation.

“This is the hardest thing that I’ll ever face and I want the Keyes family to know that if I could trade places right now, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Wegener said. “Emily will be with me in my heart forever.”

On Friday night, a candlelight vigil was held. “I think everybody’s looking for answers,” said Gray Anderson, a counselor who has been talking with residents. “People are just looking for reasons why.”

Letter written beforehand
Earlier it was learned that Morrison had indicated he planned some violent act. A 14-page letter from Morrison was postmarked Wednesday in nearby Shawnee — the same day he took six girls hostage and killed himself.

Morrison claimed in the letter that it was not a suicide note, Sheriff Fred Wegener said.

“However, many times, the letter references suicide,” Wegener said. “This letter clearly acknowledges his pending death. It also apologizes to his family for his actions that will occur.”

The letter contains no reference to Platte Canyon High or any other school, nor does it refer to a specific time or plans to harm anyone else, authorities said, leaving investigators with no known connection between the gunman and this town of about 3,500 people 35 miles from Denver.

Morrison, 53, molested all six girls before SWAT teams stormed the classroom, the sheriff said. During a gun battle with police, Morrison shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes to death and then killed himself.

The letter “doesn’t tell me a lot of why,” Wegener said, but it does suggest “he probably intended to kill both the young ladies and then kill himself, or have us shoot him.”

A copy of the letter was not released, but Denver station KUSA-TV reported that it alluded to Morrison being molested. The letter also made arrangements for Morrison’s personal belongings, according to the station, which did not say how it learned of its contents.

Investigators identified Morrison as a petty criminal who had a Denver address but apparently had been living in a motel and possibly in his battered Jeep. They also traced the handgun used in the shooting to one of Morrison’s brothers, who turned over the still-sealed letter Thursday.

Assault rifle found
The gunman spent time at a riverside clearing a mile north of the school. Wegener said an assault rifle found in the secluded spot apparently belonged to him.

“He’d obviously been in the area staking it out,” said Randy Marsh, a hardware store employee who remembers seeing Morrison’s Jeep as long as six weeks ago.

Video from cameras outside the school showed Morrison sitting in his Jeep in the parking lot for about 20 minutes and then mingling with students as classes changed, nearly 35 minutes before the siege began, KCNC-TV in Denver reported.

Lance Clem, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said investigators were reviewing the surveillance tapes and 911 calls.

Authorities released a recording of a 2004 call Morrison made to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership in the Denver area after he received a holiday catalog in the mail. His call led to a harassment charge.

Threats in the past
“Hey, Duane Morrison here,” the tape begins. “I just wonder if you (slur) are responsible for sending this to me. I’d sure like to get this stopped. I guess my last threat down there didn’t carry very far.”

Later, he says: “What do you think it will take to get this stopped? Uh, maybe a visit with an assault rifle? ... I’d sure hate for it to come to that.”

Last year, someone broke into Morrison’s apartment and stole more than a dozen handguns and rifles, according to a police report. Jesse Williams, 38, who worked as a maintenance supervisor at the Denver apartment complex where Morrison used to live, said he recalled seeing at least 20 guns during a visit to the apartment.

“We had a conversation about the right to bear arms. He really liked his guns,” Williams said. “I thought it was a little odd that a guy would have so many guns.”

Classes were canceled as the community tried to come to grips with the bloodshed, which evoked memories of the 1999 shooting rampage that left 15 dead at Columbine High School, less than an hour’s drive away.

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