In Indian Hills Estates in this prosperous North Shore Chicago suburb, the kind of neighborhood where block parties are popular and residents pride themselves on being social with one another when they walk their dogs, Benjamin Smith was conspicuous even before he was arrested for distributing antisemitic pamphlets last April.
The 21-year-old white supremacist college junior who authorities say waged a three-day shooting rampage in Illinois and Indiana that targeted blacks, Jews and Asians -- leaving two men dead and nine others wounded before he shot himself dead Sunday -- stood out in the quiet community. As a freshman in high school, Smith sometimes wielded a menacing-looking crossbow that scared other children and their parents.
He also withdrew into dark, resentful moods and occasionally stared at people in a way that one neighbor said made her think of evil. He was known to neighbors to be an aficionado of Dungeons and Dragons, the Gothic computer game of violence, something that his mother, Beverly Smith, confided to others on the street was worrisome to her.
"He was different in a way that made me afraid of him," said one neighbor, asking to speak without being named because she feared Smith might have friends who could harm her. "I was glad when he went off to college and they moved away."
Ed Murray, 47, who lives across the street from the flagstone-faced, four-bedroom house on Pawnee Road where Smith grew up, said even Beverly Smith, 50, a real estate agent and onetime village trustee, and her physician husband, Kenneth, 54, were reclusive by Indian Hills standards.
"We knew there were oddities, but we didn't think there was a social basis to them," Murray said. "They were unusual in the sense that they kept to themselves and the father wouldn't talk to anybody. . . . They weren't much interested in socializing."
Benjamin Smith went to the upscale and academically renowned New Trier High School in nearby Winnetka, where he graduated in 1996, writing an entry in his class yearbook, Sic Semper Tyrannis, or "Thus ever to tyrants." The following year his parents sold their house for $555,000 and moved to a more modest frame house on a busy street near a commercial area about three miles north in Northfield, near Interstate 94.
Neighbors said Kenneth Smith, who had been an internist associated with Northwestern University Medical Center, had given up his private practice. The blinds were drawn at the Smiths' home today and nobody answered at the door until a Northfield police officer arrived and was let in after asking a reporter to leave.
But between the time that he, his parents and 12-year-old brother, Jeffrey, moved away from Wilmette and last April, when he returned to his old Indians Hills neighborhood to distribute scores of 32-page white supremacist pamphlets in plastic bags to his former neighbors, Smith appears to have developed stridently racist views at college. At the same time, he appears to have retained ties with New Trier High School friends with the same views.
One of the Smiths' former neighbors here said that when Benjamin Smith, who adopted the name "August" because he regarded "Benjamin" as too Jewish, was arrested by Wilmette police in April for handing out hate literature, he was accompanied by a female friend, Christine Weiss, 19, a former New Trier student. The two were charged with littering for leaving hate literature on front lawns. The outcome of the charges could be not determined.
According to Harlan Loeb, Midwest counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, Weiss is the former girlfriend of Patrick Langball, who was charged in 1997 with painting a swastika on a Northfield synagogue. The same year Langball was arrested in connection with a highly publicized campaign to recruit New Trier students into the white supremacist movement.
"There's been a number of students involved in a nascent neo-Nazi cell at New Trier -- a small number," Loeb said. "They harass other students and other students harass them."
After graduating from high school in 1996, Smith enrolled in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, first in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and then switching to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
It was in Urbana where a drive-by gunman police believe was Smith opened fire on six men of Asian descent, wounding one in the leg.
Smith attended the Urbana university until last spring, when he withdrew after a series of contacts with law officers, including one involving drug possession, authorities said. After one run-in with police, he reportedly demanded that he be called "Erwin Rommel" -- the World War II German field marshal.
But it was at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he enrolled as an English major and then switched to criminal justice, that Smith gained notoriety as a white power zealot and follower of the World Church of the Creator, a white supremacist group based in East Peoria, Ill.
In frequent letters and opinion contributions to the university newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, Smith complained bitterly that the U.S. government had turned away from whites in favor of minorities and that with the advent of affirmative action programs, white students had nowhere to turn.
Writing under the name "August Smith," the young sophomore defended the racist literature he had been distributing on campus, declaring, "It is true that the fliers were racially oriented, but to label them racist, bigoted or prejudiced demonstrates bias."
Bearing the letterhead of the World Church of the Creator and recounting a rambling history of the United States, the pamphlets asserted: "Our people, the Great White Race, are slaves to a deceitful, alien government, a controlled media and a suicidal religion." They demanded every race have its own independent nation and that the government ban all immigration and homosexual activity.
In a student newspaper interview, Smith said he came from an average white family and that his beliefs about race did not start until he went to Indiana and observed a "large influx of Asians and Mexicans and blacks."
"There wasn't a single incident that traumatized me. It was just a love for my race, a slow awakening of consciousness," he told the newspaper.
He said that while he tended to leave minorities alone, his goal was to "wake up my race" and achieve a "pure" white America.
Last November, liberal Bloomington finally responded to Smith's one-man hate campaign, as a crowd of 500 students and local residents marched through town in opposition to his leafleting. Openly acknowledging he was responsible, Smith appeared alone to face the demonstrators, carrying a placard declaring, "No hate speech means no free speech."
Richard McKaig, vice chancellor and dean of students at the university, said that he called Smith into his office shortly after he arrived at IU last Spring and told him about complaints that he was distributing hate literature on campus.
"He wasn't confrontational in any way. He just said `I'm just passing out fliers. This is America,' " McKaig said. He said that after the meeting Smith moved his leaflet campaign downtown.
Last year, on Independence Day, Smith placed hundreds of white supremacist leaflets under windshields around Bloomington. When asked whether the shooting spree last weekend was related to the holiday, Bloomington Police Capt. William Parker said, "It raises questions in our minds."
Smith attended Indiana University through May, completing his sophomore year, but not re-enrolling for the next academic year. School officials said then, however, that he could re-enroll at any time before next fall.
After leaving Indiana, Smith moved to an apartment in Northbrook, a northwest Chicago suburb.
Special correspondent Kari Lydersen, research editor Margot Williams and researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
CAPTION: Smith allegedly killed Won-Joon Yoon, left, and former coach Ricky Birdsong.