April 17, 2007 — -- Anyone looking for clues into the deranged mind of Virginia Tech English major -- and mass murderer -- Seung-hui Cho need look no further than the dark and twisted creative writing that police were told about years ago.
In the fall of 2005, Lucinda Roy, co-director of Virginia Tech's creative writing program, was alerted by Cho's poetry professor that Cho's poems were disturbingly angry and violent.
Roy reached out to Cho and became alarmed herself. "I've been teaching for 22 years, and there've only been a couple of times when I thought that this is a really, really worrying thing," Roy says today. "And this was one of them."
Roy removed Cho from class and tutored him, occasionally fearing for her own safety. "I was hoping that by taking him out of the classroom … I'd help maybe to avoid something that could be catastrophic," she says. "I kept saying to him, 'Please go to counseling. I will take you over to counseling myself,' because he was so depressed … but apparently I was told you can't force someone to go to counseling. Even though I called counseling trying to get everyone to force him to go over, their hands were tied."
Eventually his behavior and disturbing writings prompted her to contact authorities.
"The threats seemed to be underneath the surface. They were not explicit," she recalled. "And that was the difficulty that the police had. I would go to the police and to the counselors and to student affairs and everywhere else, and they would say, 'There's nothing explicit here. He's not actually saying he's going to kill someone.' And my argument was he seemed so disturbed anyway that we needed to do something about this."
Roy wasn't the only one so disturbed. Writing on AOL today, former Cho writing classmate Ian MacFarlane recalled that when he and his classmates read Cho's plays, "it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence. … When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap."
In Cho's play "Mr Brownstone," teenagers discuss killing one of their teachers
"He lives off of the misery he inflicts on us," says the character John. "Giving me an after-school detention and … raping me for make a harmless joke. I wanna kill him."
Jane agreeed: "I wanna watch him bleed like the way he made us kids bleed."
In another play, "Richard McBeef," Cho wrote about a boy named John fighting with his stepfather.
John throws darts at his stepfather's picture and says: "I hate him. Must kill Dick … Dick must die. ….You don't think I can kill you, Dick? You don't think I can kill you?"
John then confronts his stepfather.
Cho's stage directions reads: "John sticks his half eaten banana cereal bar in his stepfather's mouth and attempts to shove it down his throat."
Then, "Out of sheer desecrated hurt and anger," Cho writes, "Richard lifts his large arms and swings a deadly blow at the thirteen year old boy."
And that's how the play ends.
"It's very clear that he's has some experience with molestation. There's many references to anal sexuality," says criminologist Suzanne Lea, who analyzed the plays for ABC News. "There's definitely a revenge fantasy in there."
Bu Lea says violent writing alone is not necessarily a warning sign of future criminal activity.
"I think the writings are definitely a clue, but you have to look more at the broader context," says Lea. "You have to look at the person and their behavior. Are they isolated? Are they connected to other kids? Is this person relating well with his peers?"
Unfortunately for Virginia Tech, authorities are only seriously beginning that analysis of Cho now.
Matt Hosford, Grace Huang and Larry Shaw contributed to this report.