EXCLUSIVE: Va.Tech Gunman Ordered to Get Treatment at On-Campus Facility, Lawyer Says

Seung-Hui Cho lawyer has spoken for the first time.

ByABC News
April 30, 2007, 1:28 PM

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 1, 2007 — -- Two years before Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people in a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, he was ordered by a court to undergo outpatient psychiatric treatment at an on-campus facility, Cho's court-appointed lawyer told ABC News.

This was in addition to the already reported order that sent Cho to a private facility off campus for evaluation.

With no mandatory follow-up and no penalty for noncompliance, it is not clear whether Cho ever showed up for the Va.Tech counseling.

In an exclusive interview with ABCNEWS.com, Terry Teel spoke about his client for the first time since the shooting two weeks ago. Teel, who was appointed by Montgomery County to represent Cho in a 2005 detention hearing, said that Cho was ordered to receive outpatient care at Cook Counseling Center, an on-campus facility run by Virginia Tech.

"From there he was sent to Cook Counseling. It is on court paperwork," Teel said to ABC News.

Cho was taken into police custody on Dec. 13, 2005, after a mental health evaluator found him to be "an imminent danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness" and "incapable of volunteering or unwilling to volunteer for treatment." According to court documents first obtained by ABC News, Cho was evaluated and detained for a hearing at Carilion St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital.

What had not been reported or publicly known until this point was what happened next -- specifically, that Cho was ordered to receive outpatient care at the university-run Cook Counseling Center.

In the months before his detention, Cho showed emotional distress, alerting his professors, roommates and family to the possibility that he was mentally ill. Faculty members of the English department had Cho removed from class and tutored one-on-one after fellow students were disrupted and frightened by his odd behavior.

"My brother was quiet and reserved, yet struggled to fit in," Sun-Kyung Cho, his sister, said in a statement released after the killings.

With no agency responsible for checking up on court-ordered psychiatric care, it is unclear whether Cho showed up for treatment or received care at another facility. As is standard practice for Montgomery County, the court would have sent Cho to the eligible provider nearest to his home. Cook Counseling center, which is located a few buildings away from Cho's senior-year dorm, is funded by student health fees and provides care to those enrolled at Virginia Tech.

Christopher Flynn, the head of the Cook Center, told ABC News he could not comment specifically on Cho's case due to confidentiality issues, but wrote in an e-mail to ABC News that "any student who was deemed to be suicidal or homicidal would never have been released from an inpatient facility to any outpatient facility."

Flynn previously told reporters during a news conference shortly after the shootings that his facility would not be the mandatory provider of court-ordered health care.