It just goes to show you that I am not the authority on the subject nor am I omniscient. This is a story that has eluded my notice for the past year and a half.
On Sept 24, 2003, 15-year-old John Jason McLaughlin shot two of his fellow students at Ricori High School in Cold Spring Minnesota. The victims were Aaron Rollins, 17, who was shot in the neck and died later that day in the hospital and the intended target Seth Bartell, 14, who was shot in the chest and head. Bartell held on for 16 days before passing away.
Here’s how the suspect was originally described back in 2003…
But lately, those who know McLaughlin said, he began to change. He seemed more withdrawn and didn’t want to come out to play. Some described him as intensely shy and self-conscious about his severe acne.
“It really was this summer that things seemed different,” Jess Phillips, 12, who lives about a block away, told the Star Tribune.
Neil Wackwitz, 15, who was perhaps his closest friend in the neighborhood, also told the newspaper said McLaughlin seemed to withdraw this summer.
Sullivan said she noticed lately that he didn’t seem to have many other friends. She wondered whether his small size or his acne played a role.
“Kids would tease him about that,” she said.
Wackwitz said he and McLaughlin used to play video or computer games or hang out. But lately, McLaughlin usually said he didn’t want to. He also started walking home after school instead of riding the bus.
Wackwitz said he felt bad but didn’t think anything was seriously wrong. He said McLaughlin never mentioned that anything or anyone was bugging him. In particular, he said, McLaughlin never complained to him that kids at school were picking on him.
Sullivan said that McLaughlin had mentioned to her that people were picking on him but that he didn’t seem too concerned about it.
But she said there were signs that something was amiss. During one of their long chats, she recalled, McLaughlin told her that he was being tested this summer for a split-personality disorder. She said he never mentioned it again.
Others also said that teasing may have been the motive behind the shooting. However…
If Jason McLaughlin brought a gun to school because he was tired of the teasing, classmates say they can’t figure out why he targeted Seth Barthell and Aaron Rollins.
Those two boys, according to Richter, were not among the kids who teased McLaughlin.
“I think his main target was some other kid,” he says.
In July of 2004, McLaughlin pleaded not guilty under the defense that he did not intend to kill Seth Bartell and that his mental state was in question at the time. Previously a grand jury had determined that Aaron Rollins was shot accidentally by McLaughlin.
And after almost two years the trial is finally starting to get underway.
I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
If anyone has any more information that I missed please let me know.