It was in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Isla Vista, Calif., that Peter Rodger would learn that his 22-year-old son Elliot was dead.
"I'll remember this forever the rest of my life," Rodger said. "The way [the sheriff] just looked me in the eye, and he said, 'We've found a deceased person and we found a license in his pocket that fits your son's description.'"
Elliot's mother, Li Chin Rodger, and Peter's current wife, Soumaya Akaaboune, both protested to the police. "No, no, no, no, he's not dead," they pleaded.
"Can somebody clarify this to me?" Peter Rodger asked in the confusion.
The sheriff gave the same cold answer. "We've found a deceased person, and we found a license in his pocket that fits your son's description." It was that moment Peter Rodger realized that his son was actually gone.
What he didn't know yet was that his son was a mass murderer, that Elliot had used knives, handguns and his car to murder six people and injure 13 near the UC-Santa Barbara campus before taking his own life. The carnage caused by his son transfixed that nation on May 23 as his fury left a trail of blood through the campus town.
Earlier that evening, Peter Rodger had been enjoying dinner with friends at his home a hundred miles south in Los Angeles. He had received an e-mail from his son. Elliot's mother received the same email which contained a menacing 137-page diary addressed to his parents, life coach, and others entitled "My Twisted World."
Li Chin had Googled her son's name and found something even more chilling — a YouTube video called "Elliot Rodger's Retribution." It showed her son sitting in the driver's seat of his black BMW — a car which he would turn into a deadly weapon — spewing a hate-filled, sexist tirade.
Before Peter Rodger could read the e-mail he received a desperate phone call from Chin. "You've got to go on YouTube," she implored, sending him the link.
"I just went to the YouTube page and saw, the retribution video," he said with a sigh. Watching his son say such terrible things, Peter Rodger said he remembers a wave of darkness washing over him. "A really dark force of horrible energy hit me."
That was the beginning of a nightmare that won't end for Peter Rodger as he continually relives the moments of his son's life, from the happy days when Elliot was a laughing little boy to his increasingly dark world. He recalls with a twinge of regret the what-could-have-been moment when Elliot's alarmed mother called police on her son, but they left after Elliot convinced them that his online rantings were harmless. At that point Elliot had already purchased three guns and had been practicing at a firing range in preparation for his "retribution."
Peter Rodger said he does not blame the police, but would like to see the law changed so that gun checks are required on these types of calls. "If they did do a gun check, they would know that Elliot had bought three automatic weapons. They would have the right to seize him for 24 hours, and his whole scheme would've been over and thwarted," he said in an exclusive interview with ABC's Barbara Walters.