IMAGE: SUSPECT IN VALENTINE'S DAY SUICIDE PACT
Klamath County Sheriff's Office via AP
Gerald Krein
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/13/2005 6:58:30 PM ET 2005-02-13T23:58:30

On Valentine's Day, dedicated to lovers and romance, an Oregon grand jury will consider the case of a man authorities believe duped and emotionally manipulated vulnerable women, urging them toward suicide — a man unlikely to kill himself, and more likely a predator of others’ emotions.

Authorities first thought Gerald Krein was planning a mass Internet suicide pact timed to coincide with the Valentine's Day observance. They now say, however, that Krein's alleged pact, first reported Friday, was more likely a cynical manipulation of people suffering from depression and other personal problems, a manipulative strategy going back to 2000.

Krein, 26, faces charges of solicitation to commit murder, but prosecutors are expected to increase the charge to attempted manslaughter on Monday, Klamath County Sheriff Timothy Evinger told The Associated Press.

Evinger said Sunday that Krein had been trying to persuade women for at least five years to engage in sex acts with him and then kill themselves.

A pattern of coercion
Combing through old chat room records, investigators discovered that Krein had been trying to entice women across North America to commit suicide as far back as 2000, Evinger said. Krein told investigators he elicited more than two dozen suicide pledges for the Valentine’s Day plot, authorities said.

“The common theme is that these were women who were vulnerable, who were depressed. He invited them to engage in certain sexual acts with him — and then they were to hang themselves naked from a beam in his house,” the sheriff said.

No deaths had been found that were linked to Krein, the sheriff said, but he said he would not be surprised if someone had killed herself as a result of Krein’s alleged activities.

“My concern is if he’s been doing this for some time, it’s my hope that he hasn’t been successful — but it could turn out that he has been,” he said.

Arrested Wednesday
Krein, 26, was arrested Wednesday at his mother’s home in the southern Oregon town of Klamath Falls.

Detectives learned of the Valentine’s Day plan from a woman in Ontario, Canada, who said she saw a message in a Yahoo chat room that had “Suicide Ideology” in the title. Chat room participants supposedly planned to commit suicide on Valentine’s Day while logged on with each other. The chat room is now inactive.

The woman told detectives she was going to take part in the suicide but had second thoughts when another chat room participant talked about killing her children before taking her own life, Evinger said earlier.

Krein told investigators at least 31 chat room participants agreed to the suicide pact, authorities said. So far, investigators have tracked down four women: the woman who came forward in Canada and three others living in Oregon, Missouri and Virginia.

“In the Missouri and Virginia case, he was inviting them to bring their children with them,” Evinger said. “It would have been four children total.”

While the Valentine’s Day suicide was intended to be executed as a group, others were intended as individual experiences, Evinger said. “He had a Web cam,” the sheriff said.

‘He has a history’
“As our computer specialists have been going through mail groups and old chat rooms and old postings and looking at some things that are in the public domain out there, it became clear that he has a history of doing this,” Evinger said.

The sheriff said Krein “has a history” of solicitation of sex for purposes of coercing suicide.

“He has been targeting women, accepting anybody but he's especially engaging with women,” Evinger told MSNBC.com. “He also appeared to have been doing this for sexual gratification. Whether he would follow through on his side of the pact is unknown,” he said.

Evinger said Krein had sent “chat room messages back in 2000, when he was residing in Texas and enticing people to kill themselves.”

Evinger said there was also evidence that Krein had been posting to mail groups on a United Kingdom site in 2003. “We found some information that when he was residing in Sacramento he was trying to get people to meet him in Sacramento,” Evinger said.

Portrait of a cipher
With Krein, authorities have painted a picture of a human cipher, a man with an inconsistent job history. Evinger told MSNBC.com that Krein had been living with his parents in Klamath Falls, since coming to Oregon about a year ago from Citrus Heights, Calif., an eight-year-old suburb of Sacramento. “We don't see where he's really held jobs down much,” Evinger said. “He was unemployed and taking care of his disabled father.”

For Sheriff Evinger, juggling numerous calls from the media in recent days, the Krein case has elicited wide attention. “It's been incredibly intense," he told MSNBC.com.

“I've talked to Sweden, London ... yesterday it was Australia. There's been a lot of international interest. 'Good Morning America' is my next big hoo-hah," he said of a TV interview planned for early Monday. Still, the sheriff's view of the news coverage on the case was relatively upbeat.

“I liken it to an Amber alert,” he said.

MSNBC.com's Michael E. Ross and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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