Va. Tech gunman’s mental records found in home
RICHMOND, Va. — Mental health records for Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho that were missing for more than two years have been discovered in the home of the university clinic’s former director, according to a state memo shared with victims’ family members.
Cho killed 32 people on April 16, 2007, then committed suicide as police closed in. His mental health treatment has been a major issue in the vast investigation of the shootings, yet the records’ location had eluded authorities.
They were revealed by a lawyer involved in a lawsuit filed by two families of Cho’s victims against the former director, the university and several other parties, claiming gross negligence in failing to prevent the massacre.
A memo from the university to Gov. Tim Kaine’s chief legal counsel and shared with victims’ family members says Cho’s records and those of several other Virginia Tech students were found last week in the home of Dr. Robert C. Miller. The memo was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The memo said Cho’s records were removed from the Cook Counseling Center on the Virginia Tech campus more than a year before the shootings, when Miller left the clinic.
Kaine said a Virginia State Police criminal investigation was under way into why the records disappeared. Removing records from the center is illegal, he said.
Miller, 54, declined to comment when reached at a number for his private practice.
Miller is named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the families of slain students Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde. The suit claims Miller was told by Cho’s English professors about his disturbing behavior and by the school’s residential director that Cho had a history of erratic behavior, suicidal thoughts and had “blades” in his room.
The lawsuit claims Miller never passed that information on to either of the therapists from the counseling center who dealt with Cho during three 45-minute triage sessions in 2005.
Because Miller never passed on the information and the records were lost, opportunities to “deflect him (Cho) from his dangerous and ultimately tragic course were lost,” the lawsuit states.
Notes of the warnings to Miller or those made by the therapists concerning the three meetings were never found by investigators. It is unclear if those are part of the recovered records.
The medical records are protected under state privacy laws. The state planned to release the records publicly as soon as possible, either by consent from Cho’s estate or through a subpoena.
The discovery shakes up the lawsuit, an attorney for the two families said.
“Why would he (Miller) take any student mental health records to his home at any time, and why that student?” Robert T. Hall said.
“It certainly is a question of whether there is more to the Seung-Hui Cho mental health history than we’ve been told,” Hall said.
Kaine said he was dismayed that it took two years to find the records.
“That is part of the investigation that I am very interested in and, of course, I’m very concerned about that,” Kaine said.
The discovery calls into question the thoroughness of the ongoing criminal probe and the findings of the Virginia Tech Review Panel, a commission Kaine appointed to review the catastrophe, one victim’s relative said.
“Deception comes to my mind in my first response,” said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was injured.
“To say it doesn’t make sense is an injustice,” she said. “It gives me the impression: ‘What else are they hiding?’”
While a large part of the shooting investigation focused on how university officials and law enforcement responded following the first reports of two deaths in a dormitory, family members of victims have also inquired how the troubled Cho slipped through the cracks at university counseling.
Miller was not listed among the more than 200 people interviewed by the panel. The leader of the investigation, former Virginia State Police Superintendent Gerald Massengill, said Wednesday that investigators interviewed Miller’s successor at Cook Counseling Center, Dr. Christopher Flynn, but not Miller.
Massengill said Cho’s records could be critical to understanding the rampage, depending “on what the records say, what they reveal.”
“To have any documentation reflecting or giving an understanding of what actions Cook Counseling took was certainly what we were looking for,” he said.
Massengill said the records “should give us a better understanding of what actions the university did or did not take.”
The public’s view of the troubled 23-year-old came from the video tirade he mailed to NBC News between the first two slayings in a dormitory and the killing of 30 more people in a classroom building.
“Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats,” Cho growled in the video. “Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn’t enough.”
“You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. But you decided to spill my blood,” Cho said.
Associated Press Writer Dena Potter in Richmond contributed to this report. Lindsey reported from Roanoke.
(This version CORRECTS that the records were revealed during discovery for the lawsuit, not that they were directly found by plaintiff’s attorneys, and that the memo shared with family members was sent to Kaine’s legal counsel by the university.)
Filed under Lawsuit, Legal Proceedings, News | Tags: Claim, Counsel, Criminal, Criminal Investigations, Education, negligence, North America, Richmond, School Guidance Counseling, sued, Suing, United States, Va., Violent Crime, Virginia | Comment Below