IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Suspect’s writing ‘macabre,’ ‘twisted’

Screenplays purportedly written by the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre offer a glimpse into the macabre and disturbed mindset of 23-year-old senior Cho Seung-Hui.
/ Source: NBC, and news services

Writing left behind by the shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre — including screenplays and long, rambling notes discovered after the bloodshed — offer a glimpse into the macabre and angry mindset of 23-year-old senior Cho Seung-Hui.

The chilling picture emerged a day after the bloodbath that left 33 people dead, including Cho, who apparently killed himself as police closed in.

Cho's scripts, brought to public attention by a former classmate, feature dialogue packed with obscenity and violence.

In the screenplay called "Richard McBeef," a young man accuses his stepfather of murdering his father to get his mother, and then accuses him of pedophilia when the stepfather puts his hand on the young man's leg, apparently in a friendly gesture.

"What are you, a Catholic priest," the character John rails at the older man in the play. "I will not be molested by an aging, balding, pedophilic stepdad named Dick. Get your hands off me, you sicko. Damn you, Catholic priest. Just stop it, Michael Jackson."

At the end of the play, the frustrated stepfather hits the 13-year-old stepson, killing him.

The plays, made available by Ian McFarlane, a former Virginia Tech student who now works for, have been posted on AOL's "newsbloggers" site.

In a blog posted by McFarlane on Tuesday, he says that members of the class were asked to review each other's work.

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

Looking back, McFarlane says, Cho fit the "stereotype of what one would typically think of as a 'school shooter' — a loner, obsessed with violence, and serious personal problems."

Referred to counseling
A Virginia Tech professor said that Cho’s creative writing was so disturbing that she referred him to the school’s counseling service, but he would not go.

“I kept saying, ‘Please, go to counseling; I will take you to counseling,’ because he was so depressed,” said Lucinda Roy, the English Department’s director of creative writing. But “I was told [by counselors] that you can’t force anybody to go over ... so their hands were tied, too.”

She described Cho as “an intelligent man — quite a gifted student in some ways.” But she said he also seemed to be an awkward and very lonely man who never took off his sunglasses, even indoors.

“There would be sometimes as long as a 20-second pause before he would respond ... so people were concerned about that,” Roy said. “We didn’t build up a rapport, because he wasn’t the kind of student who would permit that.”

By fall 2005, Roy removed Cho from her class after he became angry in the classroom. She said she tried several different ways to help him, including a decision to teach him one-on-one because “I didn’t feel comfortable with him being with the students.”

Roy would not comment at length on Cho’s writings, saying only that in general they “seemed very angry.”

“There was some concern about him,” said Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the English Department.

“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. But we’re all alert to not ignore things like this.”

Rude said Cho had been referred to counseling but she did not know the outcome of that effort. She refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.

'Rich kids ... charlatans'
Investigators also found a note left in the shooter's dorm room, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation told the Washington Post.

"It's sort of a manifesto," said the source, who described the note as a rambling and somewhat incoherent list of grievances.

Among the people that Cho attacked in the note were those he considered rich, spoiled students, the source said. "It was just sort of against the world," the source said.

A second note was found near Cho's body. It also contained obscenities and angry denunciations of "rich kids." The source also said investigators believe there was a connection between the shootings and recent bomb threats on campus and are "trying to nail it down."

Col. Steve Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said authorities were going through a considerable number of writings.

Cho arrived in the United States as a boy from South Korea in 1992 and was raised in suburban Washington, D.C., where his parents worked at a dry cleaners. He graduated from Westfield High School in Fairfax County in 2003.

At his parents' residence — a cream-colored, two-story townhouse with a vegetable garden in the backyard — Fairfax County police officers kept media and other onlookers at bay earlier Tuesday. The couple, described by neighbors as polite and friendly, did not emerge.

Cho was living on campus in a different dorm from the one where Monday’s shooting rampage began.

Two of those killed in the rampage, Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson, were also graduates of Westfield, in the class of 2006. But there was no immediate word from authorities on whether Cho knew the two young women and singled them out.

Police and university officials offered no clues as to exactly what set him off on the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

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

Rambling grievances
The Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site that he left a note in his dorm room that included a rambling list of grievances. Citing unidentified sources, the Tribune said he had recently shown troubling signs, including setting a fire in a dorm room and stalking some women.

Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression, the newspaper reported.

Cho was a South Korean immigrant who had been in the United States for 14 years and who held a green card signifying his status as a legal permanent U.S. resident, federal officials said Tuesday.

Cho was listed with a home address in Centreville, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., not far from Dulles International Airport.

Immigration records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security show that Cho was born in South Korea on Jan. 18, 1984, and entered the United States through Detroit on Sept. 2, 1992. He had last renewed his green card on Oct. 27, 2003.

Purchased a Glock last month
Cho was found with a backpack containing a receipt for a Glock 9mm pistol that he had bought in March.

Roanoke Firearms owner John Markell said his shop sold the Glock and a box of practice ammo to Cho 36 days ago for $571.

"He was a nice, clean-cut college kid. We won't sell a gun if we have any idea at all that a purchase is suspicious," Markell said.

He also carried a Walther P-22, which according to federal law enforcement officials was bought Feb. 9 at a pawnshop in Blacksburg.

As a permanent legal resident of the United States, Cho was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of any felony criminal charges, a federal immigration official said.

Ballistics tests by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives showed that one gun was used in Monday’s two separate campus attacks that were two hours apart.

Cho’s fingerprints were found on the two handguns used in both shootings, said two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been announced. The serial numbers on the two weapons had been filed off, the officials said.