Cho's psych records found

2009-07-22 23:14

Richmond, Virginia - Missing mental health records of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho have been discovered in the home of the university clinic's former director, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Cho killed 32 people on April 16 2007 and committed suicide as police closed in. The South Korean student's mental health treatment has been a major issue in the investigation of the shootings.

A memo from Governor Tim Kaine's chief legal counsel to victims' family members says Cho's records and those of several other Virginia Tech students were found on July 18 in the home of Dr Robert H Miller.

The memo said the records were removed from the Cook Counselling Centre on the Virginia Tech campus more than a year before the shootings.

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

The recovery of the records, which eluded a vast criminal investigation two years ago, was first announced by Kaine at a news conference on Wednesday.

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

Kaine said he was dismayed that it took two years before they were found by attorneys in a lawsuit brought by families of the victims.

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

Records to be made public

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.

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 counselling.

In April, on the second anniversary of the shootings, families of two slain students sued the state, the school and the counselling centre, 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 a local health centre where Cho had gone to say he felt suicidal did not adequately treat or monitor him. The status of the lawsuit was not immediately known.

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