Pa. Gunman 'Hell-bent' on Killings, Had 4 Guns
Police say George Sodini made two "practice runs" before massacre, left notes.
Aug. 5, 2009 -- The Pennsylvania gunman who killed three women and injured nine others when he opened fire in a fitness center Tuesday before taking his own life made two "practice runs" just hours before the massacre, investigators said today.
Police also said the gunman, 48-year-old George Sodini, also made a phone call to an unidentified person and "had a conversation" before he slipped into a dance class at the LA Fitness club with four handguns and began shooting.
Police say he used two 9-millimeter automatic pistols and fired 36 shots inside the class of around 30 women. He then used a .45 caliber revolver to take his own life. An unused .32 caliber semi-automatic pistol was later found in Sodini's pocket, police said.
"In our opinion, there was nobody in that club that could have done anything that could have prevented Sodini from committing this act," Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said. "He was hell-bent... He just had a lot of hatred in him."
Police found two typed notes in Sodini's bag at the scene, each reflecting his extreme frustration and depression with women. He complained of "never having spent a weekend with a woman" -- a theme shared in chilling blog posts reportedly written by the shooter.
Sodini entered the gym using his membership card around 11 a.m. Tuesday and then left, Moffatt said. He came back around 7:40 p.m. and left again. He returned at 7:56 p.m. and began shooting.
Sodini had apparently targeted the "Latin impact" dance class that was under way when he opened fire. "He had the class schedule with that class circled," Moffat said.
Contrary to earlier reports, police do not believe that Sodini had a personal relationship with anyone in the class, Moffatt said.
Three women, 46-year-old Heidi Overmier, 49-year-old Elizabeth Gannon and 39-year-old Jody Billingsley, were killed in the attack, according to the Allegheny coroner's office.
Sodini's Aug. 3 online diary entry, which included a date of death, was full of disturbing musings about religion and his plans for the attack. He noted that he hadn't had a drink since 2:30 on Friday as part of his preparation.
"Total effort needed. Tomorrow is the big day. Unfortunately I talked to my neighbor today, who is very positive and upbeat. I need to remain focused and absorbed COMPLETELY," the diary read. "Last time I tried this, in January, I chickened out."
The diary also indicated that Sodini hadn't had sex since 1990 and that his so-called "practice papers" -- details about the planning of the attack -- are welcome to be published afterward because "maybe all this will shed insight on why some people just cannot make things happen in their life, which can potentially benefit others.
"Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell," Sodini apparently wrote, before adding later, "I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them."
Jen Malley told "Good Morning America's" Chris Cuomo that she was in the Latin dance class at LA Fitness Tuesday when the shooting started. It's a class she takes every week with friends.
"It was the most terrifying experience of my life," she said. "I've never been so scared."
Penn. Gov. Ed Rendell commented on the blog during a news conference saying "someone with those psychological barriers or challenges in my judgement shouldn't be in possession of multiple semi-automatic weapons."
"If you look at the blogs; this gentleman had severe mental problems. He had a deep and abiding hatred for women," Rendell said.
Sodini was the registered owner to at least three of the four guns he used in the attack.
Malley said she didn't see Sodini enter the room but said she felt a presence of "someone who didn't belong there." Then the room went dark.
"Everyone was just screaming so loud. At first I didn't even think shots were being fired," she said. "It was so surreal."
Then, as she realized what was happening, Malley and her friends found their way out of the room, guided by the lights in other parts of the gym.
"I just ran as fast as I could," she said, adding that she went back to make sure her best friend was behind her. "It was just a blur from there."