George Sodini, Alleged Pa. Gym Shooter 'Likely Psychotic'

Suspected shooter fits classic profile of neglected loner seeking attention.

ByABC News
August 5, 2009, 12:18 PM

Aug. 5, 2009 — -- George Sodini finally got the attention he wanted. After years of hoping women would take notice of him, Sodini allegedly entered a Pennsylvania health club Tuesday night and murdered three women in cold blood before turning a gun on himself.

Investigators need not puzzle over the motives for Sodini's rampage; the 48-year-old suspected killer spelled them out in blood-chilling detail in an online diary.

"These are the rambling messages of a likely psychotic" and display characteristics of a man who has been "severely depressed for a long time," forensic psychologist Naftali Berrill said of Sodini's writing.

The image that emerges from his blog is that of a loner -- a psychopath, routinely rejected by women who spent a year casing the gym and plotting his revenge on the "the young girls here [that] look so beautiful as to not be human, very edible."

A combination of feelings of neglect, loneliness, insanity and perhaps a fear of losing his job may have all contributed to what set off Sodini, a seemingly by-the-book computer programmer from Pittsburgh, experts said.

The loner, who feels he was neglected as a child and seeks attention through killing, fits the classic profile for a mass shooter, law enforcement officials said. Forensic psychologists who study killers told ABC that judging from Sodini's writings he was likely severely depressed and felt that the shooting was the one way he could garner people's interest in him.

"He fits the profile of a shooter," said former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, "He spends a lot of time in his blog talking about how he was mistreated as a child. He felt he went through life feeling no one cared for him, loved him or nurtured him."

"As he got older, he likely isolated himself more and more and was able to justify his disturbing behavior. His perceived rejection justifies his actions," he said.

Sodini writes that no one suspects what he is planning. Roberta Kozel, 39, who co-owns the tanning salon Sodini frequented as recently as Saturday, said he seemed awkward but not dangerous.

"He didn't seem like a violent person, he seemed like the typical class nerd. He was a little odd but you could never figure out what it was. Maybe it was shyness, I'm not sure. He just reminded me of the class nerd," she said.

"It certainly could have been us, it could have been anybody. Obviously he methodically thought this out. He frequented the gym as much as he frequented the salon."

Tellingly, Sodini's online diary -- posted on the Web for anyone to read -- left instructions that he wanted his notes published and studied following his suicide.

That behavior, reminiscent of Cho Seung-hui, the Virginia Tech shooter who sent a manifesto to NBC News to be aired after his plot, is a classic move of shooters who feel this is the only way to get attention, said Berrill.

"'Practice Papers' left on my coffee table I used or the notes in my gym bag can be published freely. I will not be embarrassed, because, well, I will be dead. Some people like to study that stuff," Sodini wrote.

"This is all part of a grandiose posture," said Berrill. "There was a moment when he decided to stop being a sad sack that couldn't get women to look at him, or get dates, or have sex. He hatched a scheme to kill people and he knew if he did he would finally become a subject of interest."

"The murders were a purposeful and conscious effort to be a grand, powerful man of the moment. He couldn't achieve that through social means, like having a career or girlfriend, so he did by becoming a killer," said Berrill.