English Professor Went to Dean About Killer

Professors in the English department knew the killer needed help.

April 20, 2007 — -- 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."

Several Professors Had Worried About Cho

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.

Multiple Investigations, Sometimes Competing

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.

"We are at a point in time when we are closing out our on-scene investigation just now and now we move on to the task of reviewing and interviewing and reinterviewing and combing through the mounds of evidence we've collected," Col. Steven Flaherty, head of the state police, said Thursday morning.

But just hours after Flaherty said evidence collection was wrapping up, Virginia Tech university police sought and received search warrants allowing them to recover a laptop computer and cell phone belonging to Emily Hilscher, a resident of Ambler Johnston Hall and presumed to be one of the first two victims in Cho's killing spree -- apparently searching for any link between killer and victim.

"The computer would be one way the suspect could have communicated with the victim," Virginia Tech Det. Stephenie Henley wrote in search warrant affidavit obtained by ABC News. "It is highly likely that information would still be on the computer."

The warrant for the cell phone also suggested that Hilscher may have received some type of communication from Cho by phone.

That type of behavior would be consistent with incidents involving Cho in November and December of 2005 that lead female students to contact police.

One young woman complained that Cho, then 21, was stalking her, but she declined to press legal charges against him. Police interviewed Cho for the first time and referred the case to the school's internal disciplinary board.

A second woman student, less than two weeks later, told authorities she received disturbing instant messages from Cho, and asked police to make sure there was "no further contact" from him.

Cho's 'Manifesto'

Evidence of Cho's planning became abundantly clear when NBC received a package the killer sent from the Blacksburg post office after killing two people in a campus dormitory and before opening fire in the Norris Hall academic building, killing 30.

NBC News -- having been widely criticized for airing extended portions of the videos Cho mailed to the network -- posted more material from his package on its Web site, MSNBC.com. Cho had assembled many of the pictures he sent in a 23-page computer document, adding captions.

"Oh the happiness I could have had mingling among you hedonists, being counted as one of you, only if you didn't --- the living --- out of me," reads one line above a picture of a smiling Cho.

On another page is this line: "You wanna rape us John Mark Karrs? You wanna rape us Debra LaFaves? --- you."

John Mark Karr was the man who claimed last year that he had raped and murdered 6-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey in 1996, but was released after authorities concluded his confession was false. Debra LaFave was a Florida teacher who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old student.

NBC said the computer file from Cho had last been modified at 7:24 a.m. on Monday, just minutes after the first shootings. The network said it blocked out Cho's expletives.