- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ROANOKE — Families of the Virginia Tech shooting victims asked Gov. Tim Kaine on Tuesday to reopen a state commission’s investigation of the 2007 mass killings in which 32 people died.

Relatives of many those killed as well as students injured in the rampage and their families issued a statement urging Mr. Kaine to reopen the review because of inaccuracies and omissions in the report.

The families’ statement followed disclosure last week that the former director of the university’s counseling center recently found missing mental health records for student gunman Seung-Hui Cho at his home.

Mr. Cho committed suicide after killing students and faculty members in a dormitory and classroom building on the Blacksburg campus on April 16, 2007, in the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

Mr. Kaine named the Virginia Tech Review Panel to review the handling of events the day of the shootings and other related issues. A separate criminal investigation is ongoing.

“We still suffer emotional pain dealing with the impenetrable layers of bureaucracy in our simple quest for answers,” the statement said. “An accurate, complete and thorough accounting of what happened before, during and after April 16th, 2007 is the legacy we seek on behalf of those who died and those who survived.”

The families said they want more information about the discovery of Mr. Cho’s records at the home of Dr. Robert C. Miller, who said he inadvertently took the files as he left his job as director of Cook Counseling Center more than a year before the shootings.

“We cannot comprehend that Dr. Miller, knowing the intensity of the search for these records, did not recall taking them home with him in 2006,” the families said.

Mr. Kaine said in response to a caller’s question on his monthly radio show on Washington’s WTOP that the professional staff who investigated and wrote the Virginia Tech Review Panel report is already investigating Dr. Miller’s possession of Mr. Cho’s records.

He said he already had assured relatives of the slain and wounded that the report, done quickly in 2007 to expedite changes in state law during the 2008 General Assembly, would be updated.

“We are going to reopen the factual narrative of that report and look at any information that has come in since the report was done,” he said. “And yes, the contents of this file are going to be examined very carefully to see if their contents suggest that the report needs to be corrected.”

Reconvening the appointed members of the panel, including former State Police Superintendent Gerald Massengill and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, would be a problem because all were volunteer members when they served.

“Obviously, these records are critical. They shouldn’t have been removed from the counseling center. I want to know why … they were not found until now,” Mr. Kaine told a caller who identified herself as a mental health professional.

Mr. Kaine has called for public release of Mr. Cho’s records, and permission was being sought from the Cho family.

Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said information in the records should determine whether more investigation was needed.

“We believe that their contents should drive a decision,” Mr. Hincker said in an e-mailed statement.

Mr. Cho was known to have had three brief encounters with the counseling center — one in person and two by telephone.

Telephone messages left for Mr. Massengill were not immediately returned.

Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne was wounded, said she and other family members who have conducted their own investigation have found other errors and omissions in the report.

“With the revelation that Dr. Miller has discovered the missing records, it just raises whole new questions of what else is out there that we’re unaware of,” she said.

Holly Sherman, whose daughter Leslie was killed, said she didn’t join in Tuesday’s statement because she couldn’t stand the ordeal of publicity about another investigation.

“If we were to get involved with another investigative fact-finding body and follow it like we did with the panel, it would open the wounds again,” she said.

Ms. Sherman said she wouldn’t want an investigation by the same panel anyway, and hoped Mr. Kaine would appoint a small committee to look into the new information.

More than two hours passed after Mr. Cho killed two people in a dormitory before university officials notified the campus by e-mail. Mr. Cho began his rampage in a classroom building about 15 minutes later.

The panel concluded that the Virginia Tech campus should have been notified sooner that a killer was on the loose.

“It is important to note that the Massengill panel provided sound recommendations on mental health, operations and physical security for Virginia Tech and Virginia college campuses,” Mr. Hincker said.

Associated Press writers Bob Lewis and Steve Szkotak contributed to this report from Richmond.

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