"Dear God, no!"
It was the first, anguished thought that sprung to the mind of the mother of the Omaha mall sniper Robert Hawkins when she realized her son was the killer.
"Dear God, no!,'' Maribel Rodriguez repeated Thursday morning in an exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America"
"No, not him,'' she said, carefully framing her thoughts at that moment. "He is NOT doing this!'' she said emphatically, then sighed deeply.
Rodriguez said her son's life had been a challenge from the start. She divorced Hawkins' father when the boy was 3-years-old, she said, and by 5 he was taking prescription Ritalin and Zoloft. She said she watched, feeling helpless the way a parent can, as raw anger took root inside her son.
First there were fights at school, she said. Then he was caught smoking cigarettes. Then marijuana.
He became a ward of the state in 2002 after apparently threatening his stepmother. He was moved through facilities and foster homes for several years, until he was released in 2005. Two weeks before the shooting rampage, Hawkins parted ways with his girlfriend.
Rodriguez said she sympathizes deeply with the families of her son's victims.
"I'm not a dictator, so I can't tell you what to think,'' Rodriguez said on 'Good Morning America' Thursday. "But as his mother I loved him, deeply and without end. If you want to hate Rob, hate Rob,'' she continued. "You don't need that type of pain. It destroys your soul."
She said she, too, feels the enormity of the tragedy.
"It's massive,'' she told Sawyer, her eyes widening. "It's massive. It's turmoil. It's confusion. It's…absolute devastation."
Hawkins killed eight people before turning a gun on himself and committing suicide. Two more of the funerals for his victims were conducted Tuesday.
"There were nine worlds shattered," the Rev. Donald Shane told mourners at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church during a service for victim Angie Schuster, according to the Associated Press. "The worlds of Beverly Flynn. And Janet Jorgensen. And Gary Joy. And John McDonald, my classmate. And Gary Scharf. And Dianne Clavin Trent. And Maggie Webb. And our Angie.
"And a tragic, tragic end to the life of Robert Hawkins,'' he added.
The final funeral was held Wednesday. In a note Hawkins left behind, he said that he knows "everyone will remember me as some sort of monster but please understand that I just don't want to be a burden on the ones that I care for my entire life," 19-year-old Robert Hawkins wrote. "I just want to take a few peices (sic) of (expletive) with me."
The rampage was the deadliest mall shooting in U.S. history.