While the nation paused to grieve with Virginia Tech today, professors at the school say they met repeatedly to talk about the troubling behavior exhibited by Seung-hui Cho. As recently as September 2006, one of them sought information from administrators about a student she believed was troubled.
Virginia Tech creative writing professor Lisa Norris wanted to know more about 23-year-old Cho from the school's associate dean for Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Mary Ann Lewis.
Norris, in an e-mail to ABC News, says Dean Lewis replied immediately, but made no mention that Cho was suffering from mental health issues, nor did she mention anything about police reports.
"My guess is that either the information was not accessible to her or it was privileged and could not be released to me," wrote Norris. She taught Cho in both Advanced Fiction Writing and Contemporary Fiction.
Lewis told professor Norris to recommend that Cho seek counseling at the on-campus Cook Counseling Center. It was something that she had already done -- as had other professors in the English department.
"It is certainly true that my creative writing colleagues and I shared information and concerns about Cho," Norris wrote. "More than one of us tried to get him to seek counseling."
Just five weeks into the fall 2005 semester, professor Nikki Giovanni asked to have Cho removed from her introductory creative writing course after female students complained that he was snapping photos of their legs under the desk with a cell phone camera. Giovanni told The Associated Press that she approached then-department head Lucinda Roy, who pulled Cho from the class.
Roy also alerted student affairs, the dean's office and Virginia Tech police -- all of whom told Roy there was little that could be done unless Cho was making clear threats.
In addition to faculty members who alerted administrators about Cho's menacing behavior, Virginia Tech police notified university officials in December 2005 when a judge issued a temporary detention order that allowed them to send Cho to an off-campus mental facility -- an order authorized after three run-ins between police and Cho in less than three weeks.
"We notified the university administrator on call of our actions with Mr. Cho regarding the temporary detention order," Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flimchum said yesterday. "We had taken it as far as the police department could take it. We notified the university administrator on call and after that, I don't know what happened to the case."
This was contradicted by Chris Flynn, the head of the on-campus counseling facility, who said to his knowledge, the department was never notified of the detention.
These details of Cho's past troubles are likely to be material for the investigative panel ordered by Virginia's governor, Timothy M. Kaine. Kaine announced Thursday he is appointing the state's former police superintendent, Gerald Massengill, to gather information on whether Cho's case ought to have been pursued more aggressively, and whether there are lessons for future cases.
The panel includes Tom Ridge, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, as well as experts in mental health and former state education officials.
As of Thursday, Virginia state police ceased offering daily investigation updates. Instead, they said they will offer details as they emerge.