Pa. Gunman 'Hell-bent' on Killings, Had 4 Guns

Police say George Sodini made two "practice runs" before massacre, left notes.

August 4, 2009, 9:21 PM

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.

Click here to read the full text of George Sodini's blog.

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."

Blog Entries Detail Shooter's Problems With Family, Women, Alcohol

On Monday, the day before the shootings, Sodini gave what might be the closest thing to his reason for the attacks.

"The biggest problem of all is not having relationships or friends, but not being able to achieve and acquire what I desire in those or many other areas," the blog reads. "Everything stays the same regardless of the effert (sic) I put in. If I had control over my life then I would be happier. But for about the past 30 years, I have not."

Sodini had apparently been planning the attack for some time, even writing that he put off his original plan until after November's 2008 presidential election, in a rambling entry that complains black men have their choice of the best white girls.

He tried again in January and May, according to the blog, but "chickened out."

The Jan. 6 entry said he even brought the loaded gun to the gym.

Roberta Kozel, who co-owns a tanning salon that Sodini frequented as recently as Saturday, said she was shocked to learn he was the shooter.

"He didn't seem like a violent person," Kozel told "He seemed like a typical class nerd. He was a little odd but you could never figure out what it was."

Sodini asked the receptionist at the salon out for a date, but she "didn't take him seriously," Kozel said.

A lengthy New Years Eve entry in the online diary lists his family members by name and, in some cases, address. He described his older brother Michael Sodini as a bully -- the "kind of guy you actually loved to hate."

He described his mother as the "Central Boss" warning, "Don't piss her off or she will be mad and vindictive for years. "

Various blog entries detail his worry about losing his job and having to re-enter the job market, as well as his troubles with alcohol.

A May 5 entry -- the day of his second attempt to launch an attack on the gym -- notes that he stopped to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels, his first drink in 20 years.

Gym Shooter Ambushed Class Full of Women

A woman in the class of about 30, who identified herself as Nicole, told WTAE that the class had started about 10 minutes before gunfire erupted.

"He looked out of place in a class full of women," according to the witness, who said the man put his bag down, turned the lights off and opened fire.

Ron Fleeher told WTAE Channel 4 Action News that the gunman held down his niece before shooting her.

"My niece said a couple bullets went past her head and [the gunman] leaned down, straddled her and shot her in the shoulder," he said.

Sources close to the investigation told ABC News that multiple guns were used in the attack, including one that was registered to Sodini.

Collier Township Police Chief Tom Devin told reporters that he believed the shooter committed suicide at the scene.

Moffat said that the man did not say a word upon entering the gym nor when walking into the dance studio.

"He walked right into the room where the shootings occurred as if he knew exactly where he was going," he said.

The floor was littered with shell casings and blood, according to surviving witnesses.

A local hospital treated five women who were shot multiple times, reported WTAE. Four have been upgraded to "serious" condition and one has been released from the hospital, Moffatt said.

Health Club Members 'Shaken' by Gym Shooting Spree

LA Fitness gym staff told WTAE that it was a busy night health club at the time of the shooting, with about 100 people inside. Witnesses said people inside the gym took off running amid the gunshots.

Lauren Dooley, 26, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that she had been running on a treadmill, listening to her iPod when the chaos broke out.

"I saw people flying off the treadmills, hitting the ground" for cover, Dooley said. "We crawled through the fire escape, and I sprinted out the back."

"I turned around there was one girl shot in the thigh and one girl shot in the back," Branson Holly, a witness inside the gym at the time of the shooting told WTAE. "I'm still shaken because I was in spinning class and it could have been my class."

Many heard the sounds of gunfire, others actually saw shots being fired in the darkened room.

"The lights were off, and I could see flashes in the dark," said Jared Frederick, a witness.

Debi Wozniak told The Associated Press that she is normally a regular at the weekly Latin impact dance exercise class. She says she missed the class Tuesday, but her sister, Joann Gazzam, had attended.

Gazzam told Wozniak that a man came in through the glass double doors, walked to the back of the room and set down the bag. She said he began looking through his bag and pulled out and began shooting.

"She told me, 'Debi, I seen everything, oh my God, I seen everything. I seen him pull out the guns,"' Wozniak said.

ABC News' Emily Friedman and Stephen Splane contributed to this report.

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