New Questions on Virginia Tech

Sunday, August 2, 2009

TWO YEARS AFTER Seung Hui Cho's bloody killing spree on the campus of Virginia Tech, the news that his missing mental health records have suddenly turned up at the home of the university's counseling center's former director raises a raft of unsettling questions.

Of course, the obvious one is what the records reveal, if anything, about Mr. Cho's state of mind in December 2005 when, on a judge's order, he appeared for an appointment at the counseling center. Was he evaluated? What were the results? Did his visit ring any alarm bells, and if so, why was there no follow-up by the school's mental health professionals?

Equally if not more disturbing, however, are the questions surrounding the disappearance and discovery of the documents:

What was going through the mind of Robert Miller, the former counseling center director, when he removed Mr. Cho's records, and those of a few other patients, upon leaving his job there in 2006, a year before Mr. Cho's rampage? And why did it take him more than two years -- until, he says, a lawsuit prompted him to undertake a search at his home -- to recall that he had "inadvertently" (and possibly illegally) removed the documents?

As Suzanne Grimes, whose son was injured in the shootings, told The Post: "When you retire, you take the pictures off the wall. You don't take records."

The unfortunate but inevitable upshot of this episode is to undercut the confidence of the public, and of the victims' relatives, in the soundness of the report of a blue-ribbon state commission charged with investigating the shootings in 2007. Among other troubling recent revelations is that the state commission apparently did not question Mr. Miller about the whereabouts of the documents. That omission is particularly mystifying given that the commission was led by a former state police superintendent, W. Gerald Massengill, who should know something about conducting an investigation and unearthing documents.

So now some of the victims' families are pressing Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to reconvene the commission to ensure that it got the facts right the first time around, and to determine whether a cover-up contributed to the disappearance of Mr. Cho's mental health records. Mr. Kaine would be well advised to do so. Allowing the new questions to fester would add a toxic aftertaste to an already bitter event.

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