Va. Tech gunman’s mental records found in home

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090722/ap_on_re_us/us_virginia_tech_shooting

Va. Tech gunman’s mental records found in home

By BOB LEWIS and SUE LINDSEY, Associated Press Writers Bob Lewis And Sue Lindsey, Associated Press Writers – 1 hr 16 mins ago

RICHMOND, Va. – Mental health records for Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho that were missing for more than two years have been discovered in the home of the university clinic’s former director, according to a state memo sent to victims’ family members.

Cho killed 32 people on April 16, 2007, then committed suicide as police closed in. His mental health treatment has been a major issue in the vast investigation of the shootings, yet the records’ location had eluded authorities until they were uncovered by attorneys for some families of Cho’s victims.

A memo from Gov. Tim Kaine‘s chief legal counsel to victims’ family members says Cho’s records and those of several other Virginia Tech students were found last week in the home of Dr. Robert C. Miller. The memo was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The memo said Cho’s records were removed from the Cook Counseling Center on the Virginia Tech campus more than a year before the shootings, when Miller transferred from his position at the clinic. Records for several other students were also at his home, the memo said.

“I appreciate your call, but I’m not making comment at this time,” Miller said when reached at a number for his private practice.

Kaine said a Virginia State Police criminal investigation was under way into how the records disappeared from the center where Cho was ordered to undergo counseling. Removing records from the center is illegal, he said.

Kaine said he was dismayed that it took two years before they were found by the attorneys.

“That is part of the investigation that I am very interested in and, of course, I’m very concerned about that,” Kaine said.

The medical records are protected under state privacy laws. The state planned to release the records publicly as soon as possible, either by consent from Cho’s estate or through a subpoena.

The discovery calls into question the thoroughness of the criminal probe two years ago and the findings of a commission Kaine appointed to review the catastrophe, one victim’s relative said.

“Deception comes to my mind in my first response,” said Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was injured in the shootings.

“To say it doesn’t make sense is an injustice,” she said. “It gives me the impression: ‘What else are they hiding?'”

She praised Kaine’s willingness to investigate the disappearance of the records and have them released.

“Until we get all the answers to what happened on that day and days prior, there’s no sense of closure,” Grimes said.

Andrew Goddard, whose son, Colin, survived four gunshots, welcomed the new information.

“We’re not looking to hang people. We’re looking for more of the truth about what happened,” he said.

While a large part of the shooting investigation focused on how university officials and law enforcement responded following the first reports of deaths in a Virginia Tech dormitory, family members of victims have also inquired how the troubled Cho slipped through the cracks at university counseling.

In April, on the second anniversary of the shootings, families of two slain students sued the state, the school and its counseling center, several top university officials and a local mental health agency, claiming gross negligence in the chain of events that allowed Cho to commit his killing spree.

The lawsuits also claim the local health center where Cho had gone to say he felt suicidal did not adequately treat or monitor him.

The discovery shakes up that lawsuit, an attorney for the two families said.

“Why would he (Miller) take any student mental health records to his home at any time, and why that student?” Robert T. Hall said.

“It certainly is a question of whether there is more to the Seung-Hui Cho mental health history than we’ve been told,” Hall said in a telephone interview from vacation in Vermont.

Goddard, who was appointed last year to the state board of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, said he wasn’t sure how helpful the records would be.

But he said if they showed Cho was “anything other than this mildly upset student,” that needed to come out.

___

Associated Press Writer Dena Potter in Richmond contributed to this report. Lindsey reported from Roanoke.

(This version CORRECTS the middle initial for the former clinic director to C., not H.)

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