Archive for Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ex-Va. Tech official had gunman’s mental records

July 23, 2009

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— The Virginia Tech gunman’s missing mental-health records have been found at the home of a former university counseling official more than two years after the bloodbath — a discovery that angered victims’ families struggling to understand how the killer fell through the cracks so disastrously.

The belated emergence of Seung-Hui Cho’s file, a development disclosed in a memo obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, represents another embarrassing lapse in the case and raises questions about how such potentially explosive evidence could be lost for so long.

“Deception comes to my mind in my first response,” said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was wounded. “It gives me the impression, ‘What else are they hiding?’”

The contents of the file have not been made public, and Gov. Tim Kaine said it is unclear why Dr. Robert C. Miller, former director of the campus clinic where Cho was counseled because of his disturbing behavior, took the records home more than a year before Cho killed 32 people and committed suicide on April 16, 2007.

Because Miller brought the file to his attorney’s attention and it was not found by law enforcement, its discovery calls into question the thoroughness of the criminal investigation and the findings of a commission appointed by the governor. The commission never interviewed Miller.

Victims’ families want to know whether the file contains warning signs that could have prevented the nation’s deadliest shooting rampage.

“Would things have been different if we had this information? What information is in those records?” asked Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was wounded in the shootings.

Miller, 54, declined to comment when reached by telephone at his private practice.

State officials said they would release the records publicly as soon as possible, either by getting consent from Cho’s estate or through a subpoena. The medical records are protected under state privacy laws.

Miller told his attorney about Cho’s file last Thursday, said Mark E. Rubin, the governor’s chief legal counsel. According to a university memo shared with victims’ families, Miller took the records for Cho and several other students home around the time he left his job at the center in 2006.

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