- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech gunman Seung-hui Cho fired enough shots to strike his 32 victims more than 100 times before killing himself with a bullet to his head, a medical examiner said yesterday.

Dr. William Massello, the assistant medical examiner based in Roanoke, said pathologists have sent blood samples for toxicology testing to determine whether Cho was on drugs during his rampage last Monday. It could take as long as two weeks to get the test results, he said.

Cho was not especially accurate with his shots, Dr. Massello said, but hit many of the victims several times.

Many had defensive wounds, indicating they tried to shield themselves from Cho’s fire. There was no evidence in the autopsies that Cho struggled with any of the people he killed.

Authorities had to return to the victims’ dorm rooms and homes to collect fingerprint information so they could make identifications, said an official close to the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

Several of the victims had gunshot wounds to the head, the official said.

Cho died from a gunshot to his temple, destroying his brain. Even if the organ had remained intact, Dr. Massello said, doctors would not have been able to tell whether he had a brain abnormality: They are usually neurological or chemical disorders not detectable during an autopsy.

Cho had a history of bizarre behavior, which included writing stories that at least two of his professors found unsettling and sending “annoying” messages to two female students in 2005, resulting in investigations by campus police. After the second incident, Cho was found to be suicidal and was sent to a mental health facility. However, the incidents were nothing compared with the brutal shootings and the so-called “multimedia manifesto” he sent to NBC News between the two attacks last week. The package included a video disc with pictures of Cho wielding pistols and a hammer, and videos of him rambling about his alienation and hatred.

Dr. Massello said autopsy reports are being typed. He was not sure when they would be completed and released formally.

Many of the victims’ bodies left the medical examiner’s office Thursday, and several major airlines offered to transport the bodies back to their families at no cost. It is not known whether Cho’s body was among those that had been released.

Dr. Massello said it took four doctors to complete the autopsies, but he was not sure whether all results had been released to families.

Five victims were from Northern Virginia. The first funeral, for freshman Reema J. Samaha, is scheduled for this morning at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in McLean. Miss Samaha, 18, graduated from Westfield High School, where Cho also attended.

Tommy McDearis, pastor of Blacksburg Baptist Church, was designated to tell more than 20 families that a member had died in the attack, the deadliest by a single shooter in U.S. history.

Yesterday, he urged his congregation and the university to put behind the pain of the rampage by returning to classes today.

“If we give up in the face of this situation, if we quit doing all of the things that really matter in life because this darkness has visited us, then we are going to surrender to the darkness,” he said.

Mr. McDearis told the story of a professor devastated by the deaths of several of his students at Norris Hall, where Cho killed 30 students and faculty members before turning the gun on himself.

The professor said he didn’t know whether he could return. But failing to doing so, Mr. McDearis said, would be a betrayal to the memories, hopes and dreams of the victims.

“There is no way that any of them would ever look at us and want us to give up,” he said. “We owe them more than to just throw in the towel.”

Cho killed two other students killed inside West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory about 90 minutes before the attack in Norris Hall.

In getting ready for the resumption of classes, the university’s student government is asking reporters to leave campus by this morning.

Student government spokeswoman Liz Hart said the campus appreciates the reporting on the story, but students are ready to move forward.

“The best way to know how to do that is get the campus back to normal,” she said. “That includes being able to go back to class, to get back into our normal routine as much as a possible without being held back by anything external, reminding us that it will be a difficult road. We already know it.”

Cho, 23, left South Korea with his family in 1992 when he was 8 to settle in Centreville.

His sister, Sun-kyung Cho, issued a sorrowful apology Friday for the family through North Carolina lawyer Wade Smith.

Yellow crime-scene tape yesterday still surrounded the perimeter of Norris Hall, which will be closed for the rest of the semester. Some people snapped photos of the building. Others gazed at it solemnly, with bowed heads.

Elsewhere on campus, students toted laundry and suitcases as they headed for their dorms. On the Drillfield at the center of campus, sophomore Ashleigh Shifflett sat with her sister, Regan, a 2005 graduate.

Miss Shifflett left campus Tuesday for her home in Maryland and returned to campus Saturday.

“When we … could see the campus, we both started crying,” Miss Shifflett said. “I was happy to see my family, but I felt like I needed to be here. And when I came back here, it was like I’m home.”

The investigation into Cho continues, with computer forensics appearing to play a key role. The gunman, a sullen loner who appeared to have few if any friends, bought ammunition clips on EBay designed for one of two handguns used in the rampage.

The EBay account and other Internet activities provide insight into how Cho may have plotted the rampage.

An EBay spokesman said the ammo purchase from an Idaho-based Web vendor was legal and that the company has cooperated with authorities.

Authorities also are examining the personal computers found in Cho’s dorm room and are seeking his cell-phone records.

Investigators hope to learn whether Cho had e-mail contact with Emily Hilscher, one of the first two victims. Investigators plan to search her Virginia Tech e-mail account.

• Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo, Allen G. Breed and Kristen Gelineau contributed to this report.

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