8 Years After Columbine School Massacre, Questions Still Unanswered

Friday, April 20th 2007, 6:40 am
By: News On 6

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) _ As they marked the eighth anniversary of the Columbine school shooting and mourned the recent victims at Virginia Tech, many Littleton families were also questioning a judge's decision to seal information about the killers.

Columbine High School was closed Friday, as it had been every April 20 since the 1999 attack in which two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.

Gov. Bill Ritter asked state residents to join a bell-ringing and moment of silence for the Virginia Tech victims on Friday.

In the years since Columbine, Colorado has become a better place, Ritter said during a solemn ceremony outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, moments before the cathedral bells tolled.

``It's a place of healing, it's a place of unity, a place of hope because we got there together,'' the governor said.

Some relatives of the Columbine victims haven't been pleased with federal Judge Lewis Babcock's decision earlier this month to seal for 20 years the testimony of Harris' and Klebold's parents about the boys' home lives. They feel the information could help prevent future school rampages.

``I don't think you can stop every crazy person. But some of the things Babcock locked up show what these crazy kids did,'' said Don Fleming, whose 16-year-old daughter, Kelly, was killed in the attack. ``It's no use to anybody if it is locked up.''

``If society knew, it could possibly prevent future shootings,'' Fleming said. ``We're finding out that everything that the latest killer did is similar to what Klebold and Harris did.''

Other relatives of the Columbine victims expressed similar displeasure over Babcock's decision.

``How much more blood must be spilled?'' said Brian Rohrbough, who lost his 15-year-old son, Danny.

Speaking to reporters in Golden, Rohrbough called on the Jefferson County sheriff, the Columbine principal and Babcock to release all information on the killings immediately.

Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus on Monday before taking his own life, called Harris and Klebold ``martyrs'' in a videotape he mailed to NBC.

Michael Shoels, father of Columbine victim Isaiah Shoels, was at Virginia Tech on Friday to urge officials there to avoid secrecy and keep families informed during the investigation.

``I don't want them to get caught up in what we got caught up in Colorado,'' he said. ``They need to let these parents know that they are going to do whatever they can to get to the bottom of this.''

That may not only prevent some lawsuits, but it will help other schools learn and change, he said.

``The child that killed their children, he's dead also. There's no prosecution here. So why not open up and let it be a lesson to everyone?'' he said.

In the Columbine records ruling, Babcock cited a need for confidentiality and concerns that releasing the testimony from the killers' parents could encourage copycat crimes. The judge declined to comment.

The Harrises and Klebolds commented publicly only through their lawyers. Michael Montgomery, an attorney who represented the Harris family, said the judge made an appropriate decision.

Much information about the Columbine killers is available on the Internet. Authorities learned that Harris and Klebold played violent games, made violent videos at school, and were bullied.

Researchers into school-related violence support the Columbine families' position on releasing the tapes, noting the relative frequency of campus violence. The Centers for Disease Control in 2002 reported 220 school-related shootings from 1994 to 1999, resulting in 253 deaths.

``The judge said the tapes were incendiary. We have plenty of things already that stimulate violence,'' said sociologist Ralph Larkin, author of ``Comprehending Columbine.''