Missing Mental Health Records of Va. Tech Shooter Are Discovered
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The missing mental health records of Seung Hui Cho, who was responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, mysteriously resurfaced last week in the home of the former director of the university's counseling center.
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) announced Wednesday that the records, which neither the state police nor a state investigative commission had been able to locate, turned up as a result of pretrial discovery in two lawsuits that have been filed by families of Cho's victims.
University officials received the records last Thursday but did not inform state police until Monday and did not provide copies of the records to state police until Tuesday, five days after they were recovered, according to Corinne Geller, a state police spokeswoman.
Neither state officials nor the university have disclosed the contents of the records, but the governor said he hopes that they will be made public within days, either with permission from Cho's estate or through a subpoena.
Kaine (D) did not identify the Virginia Tech employee who had the records, but a memo written by a university lawyer identified him as Robert Miller. Miller headed the Cook Counseling Center at the university until 2006, the year before the Virginia Tech massacre, the worst mass shooting by an individual in U.S. history. On April 16, 2007, Cho killed 32 students and teachers and wounded many more before taking his own life.
Miller took Cho's records and those of "several other students" when he was transferred from the counseling center to the Human Resources Department, according to the memo from the Virginia Tech lawyer, Mary Beth Nash, to Kaine's office.
The records might shed light on Cho's mental state and clarify whether Virginia Tech counselors complied with a court order that he receive mental health treatment.
Relatives of victims, who have long argued that the university had lost track of a dangerously unbalanced student, expressed new concern about the school's handling of the case.
Families whose children were killed or injured in the attack said they were particularly disturbed that the documents turned up during a records search for two lawsuits, rather than during previous state investigations. Kaine's special commission on the shootings did not interview Miller, W. Gerald Massengill, the panel's chairman and a retired state police superintendent, said Wednesday.
"The words that come to mind are coverup, collusion, obstruction," said Mike Pohle, whose son was killed in the shootings. "I'm spinning. Who knows what could be in those records? But this is just potentially more information that says: Virginia Tech, you failed to do your job."
Pohle and Suzanne Grimes, whose son was wounded and still has a bullet in him, said the revelation might call into question the $11 million settlement that all but two families of victims signed with the university. "It just infuriates me that all of a sudden now, these records have magically appeared from a former director," she said. "When you retire, you take the pictures off the wall. You don't take records. It doesn't make sense. And it raises a whole new set of questions about accountability for Virginia Tech."
Kaine promised a full criminal investigation and said he was eager to learn more about the circumstances under which Cho's records were taken to Miller's home.