Taking a Closer Look at Mass Murders

The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines a mass murder as generally involving at least four victims in a single location with no cooling-off period between the fatalities.

But not all mass murderers or alleged perpetrators are alike. The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December touched off a national debate not only over gun use, but also over the roles played by mental illness, psychiatric drugs or substance abuse.

What follows are two lists. This first list includes examples going back to the Columbine High School shootings in 1999 of armed mass murderers or alleged perpetrators with confirmed mental illness or related medical issues, psychiatric drug use or substance abuse history.

April 20, 1999 --  Teenagers Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Kiebold, 17, killed 13 individuals and wounded 21 others at Columbine High School in Littleton. Colo., before committing suicide. Harris had been taking the antidepressant Luvox and had undergone anger management therapy.

June 3, 1999 -- Zane Floyd was a 23-year-old ex-Marine who raped a woman at his Las Vegas home and then went to a nearby Albertson's supermarket at Sahara Avenue and Valley View Boulevard, where he randomly killed four people.  Floyd, now on death row in Ely State Prison, had a history of alcohol abuse and violent fantasies. His defense attorneys claimed that Floyd was suffering from extensive mental or emotional disturbances.

July 29, 1999 -- Mark Orrin Barton, 44, murdered 12 individuals -- including family members and employees of two Atlanta day trading companies -- and injured 13 others after reportedly losing more than $100,000 in the stock market. Barton reportedly used hallucinogenic drugs as a teen, was repeatedly hospitalized for accidental overdoses, had psychiatric treatment following a mental breakdown, and battled depression. Barton committed suicide following his rampage.

Sept. 15, 1999 -- Larry Gene Ashbrook, 47, killed seven individuals, wounded seven others and then took his own life at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Ashbrook had been prescribed the antidepressant Prozac, though no drugs were found in his body following the shooting.

Nov. 2, 1999 -- Bryan Uyesugi was 40 when he killed seven co-workers at Xerox offices in Honolulu, and he received a sentence of life in prison the following year.  A prior arrest  for property damage resulted in a court order that he undergo psychiatric evaluation and  take anger management courses. A psychiatrist who examined Uyesugi after that arrest determined that he suffered from paranoia and a delusional disorder but wasn't dangerous. But when Uyesugi went to trial for the mass murder, his attorneys used an insanity defense.

Dec. 26, 2000 -- Michael McDermott drew seven life sentences as a result of killing seven co-workers at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield, Mass., when he was 42. McDermott reportedly took antidepressants and had diagnoses of paranoia, schizophrenia and depression. He also had attempted suicide and said he was on painkillers at the time of the shootings.

July 8, 2003 -- Doug Williams, 48, killed six co-workers and injured eight others at a Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Miss., before committing suicide. Williams underwent anger management counseling, and a co-worker said the perpetrator also had been taking the antidepressants Celexa and Zoloft.

Aug. 27, 2003 -- Salvador Tapia, 36, killed six former co-workers at the Windy City Core Supply auto parts warehouse in Chicago before he was shot dead by police.  Tapia's lengthy prior arrest record included charges of domestic battery, aggravated assault and drunk driving.

March 21, 2005 -- Sixteen-year-old Jeffrey Weise killed nine -- including his grandfather -- and wounded five before committing suicide. Seven of the fatalities occurred at Red Lake High School in Red Lake, Minn. Weise took the antidepressant Prozac, received mental health counseling and hospitalization, and previously attempted suicide.

Jan. 30, 2006 -- Jennifer San Marco, 44, committed suicide after killing her former neighbor in Santa Barbara, Calif., and then six other people at a mail sorting facility in Goleta, Calif., where she once worked. The Postal Service placed her on retirement disability for psychological reasons three years earlier. She also spent a brief period in a psychiatric hospital, but her diagnosis wasn't reported.  

April 16, 2007 -- Seung-Hui Cho, 23, murdered 32 individuals and wounded 17 others in an attack on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. He then took his own life. Cho was diagnosed as having major depressive disorder and a severe anxiety disorder known as selective mutism. He received mental health treatment as an adolescent, and was found to be mentally ill and in need of hospitalization less than 18 months before the shootings.

Dec. 5, 2007 --  Teenager Robert Hawkins, 19, killed eight individuals and wounded four others in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., and then committed suicide. He used alcohol and marijuana, took the anti-anxiety drug Valium, and had psychiatric hospitalizations. Hawkins was diagnosed as having mood disorder, attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.

Feb. 14, 2008 -- Steven Kazmierczak, 27, killed five students and injured 18 other individuals at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. CNN quoted his girlfriend as saying that Kazmierczak, who killed himself, had taken the antidepressant Prozac, the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, and the sleep aid Ambien.

March 29, 2009 -- Robert Stewart, 45, killed seven residents and a nurse and wounded two others at the Pinelake Health & Rehabilitation Center in Carthage, N.C. Stewart, who was sent to prison for life, took the antidepressant Lexapro and anti-anxiety drug Xanax and allegedly abused the sleep aid Ambien.

Jan. 8, 2011 -- Jared Loughner, 22, killed six people -- including U.S. District Judge John Roll -- and wounded 13 others -- including Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz. on a rampage in Tucson, Ariz. Loughner, who is serving life in prison, abused marijuana, alcohol, LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms. A forensic psychologist who examined Loughner before his trial concluded that he may have suffered from depression years earlier and showed signs of being schizophrenic. A psychiatrist who also examined Loughner said he appeared to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. After it was initially determined that Loughner was unfit to stand trial, he was involuntarily medicated and allowed to plead guilty.

July 7, 2011 -- Rodrick Dantzler, 34, committed suicide after killing seven individuals -- including his estranged wife and daughter and a former girlfriend -- in two homes in Grand Rapids, Mich. His lengthy criminal history included a prison sentence for assault with a firearm, and repeated domestic violence that included a series of protective orders filed by women. Dantzler also abused cocaine.

Sept. 6, 2011 -- Eduardo Sencion, 32, killed four individuals -- including three members of the Nevada National Guard -- and wounded seven at an IHOP restaurant in Carson City. Sencion, who also committed suicide, had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and was taking medication for that condition.

Oct. 14, 2011 -- Scott Dekraai was 41 when he allegedly killed eight people and wounded another person at the Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, Calif. Dekraai pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. His defense attorneys argued that Dekraai needed the antidepressant Trazodone and a drug aimed at preventing seizures, Topamax. But Dekraai reportedly was denied those medications in jail.

April 2, 2012 -- One Goh, 43, is accused of killing seven individuals at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif. He was later evaluated to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and has been classified as unfit to stand trial. Goh, who pleaded not guilty, was ordered detained in a mental hospital until he is fit to stand trial.

July 20, 2012 -- James Holmes, 24, is suspected of killing 12 individuals and wounding 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Defense attorneys have said that Holmes, who is awaiting trial, is mentally ill.  CBS News also reported that Holmes saw three mental health professionals at the University of Colorado.

Aug. 5, 2012 -- Wade Page, 40, committed suicide after killing six people at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. Page reportedly had a history of alcoholism.

Sept. 27, 2012 --  Andrew Engeldinger, 36, killed six individuals in a shooting at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis and took his own life. He used antidepressants Mirtazapine, Trazodone and Wellbutrin, and also took Temazepam, a drug that treats insomnia.

Dec. 14, 2012 -- Adam Lanza, 20, killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., along with his mother and himself.  Lanza reportedly was diagnosed as having both Asperger's syndrome and sensory integration disorder, according to the televised public affairs program Frontline and The Hartford Courant. The Atlantic Wire concluded that neither condition is normally linked to violent behavior but could have contributed to anger or anxiety issues.

This second list includes armed mass murderers and alleged perpetrators whose medical history or possible use of drugs or alcohol hasn't been thoroughly documented or confirmed by the media.

July 12, 1999 -- Cyrano Marks, 39, committed suicide after killing his girlfriend, four of her children and her sister in an Atlanta home. A wounded child fled the scene.

Aug. 26, 2002 -- Westley Harris was 22 when he killed six members of his girlfriend's family at their home in Rutledge, Ala. Harris was given a death sentence.

March 12, 2005 -- Terry Ratzmann, 44, killed seven members of the Living Church of God -- including the pastor -- and wounded four others before committing suicide at a Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, Wis. Neighbors said Ratzmann suffered from depression and had a drinking problem but police disputed the depression allegations and said he wasn't found to be using drugs.

March 25, 2006 -- Kyle Huff, 28, committed suicide after killing six people and wounding two others at a rave party in Seattle. Academicians who studied the shooting reported: "There was no evidence of a simple explanation for Kyle Huff's behavior. The massacre did not appear to be the result of media imitation, drug inhalation or neurological abnormality (although his self-inflicted head wound eliminated any opportunity to examine his brain during autopsy)."

Oct. 2, 2006 -- Charles Roberts, 32, killed himself after murdering five girls and wounding five others at an Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pa. Roberts reportedly left behind suicide notes to his wife in which he expressed anger over the loss of their newborn daughter years earlier.

Feb. 12, 2007 -- Sulejman Talovic, 18, was killed by police after he murdered five individuals and wounded four others at the Trolley Square shopping mall in Salt Lake City.

Oct. 7, 2007 -- Tyler Peterson, a 20-year-old off-duty sheriff's deputy, killed six people and wounded another individual at a house party in Crandon, Wis. He then killed himself.

Feb. 7, 2008 -- Charles Thornton, 52, killed five individuals -- including two city council members -- and wounded the mayor in Kirkland, Mo. Thornton ultimately was killed by police. He had been cited numerous times by the city for code violations related to his property and paving business.

April 3, 2009 -- Jiverly Wong, also known as Jiverly Voong, 41, committed suicide after killing 13 people and wounding four others at an immigration office in Binghamton, N.Y. The New York Daily News quoted former co-workers as saying that Wong, a native of Vietnam, was "an angry loner who loved guns, hated America and talked about assassinating the president."

Nov. 5, 2009 -- Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was 39 at the time he allegedly killed 13 individuals -- including 12 soldiers -- and wounded at least 30 others at the Fort Hood Army post in Killeen, Texas.  A judge ruled in January that Hasan, whose case is pending, could face the death penalty. Hasan allegedly espoused Islamic extremism and opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Aug. 3, 2010 -- Omar Thornton, 34, killed eight individuals and then himself at the Hartford Distributors beer warehouse in Manchester, Conn., where he once worked.  

May 29, 2012 -- Ian Stawicki, 40, murdered four customers at Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle and a fifth individual elsewhere in the city. He then committed suicide. Stawicki had been charged previously with four domestic violence-related misdemeanors but those cases were dropped. The Seattle Times quoted his father as saying that he thought Stawicki was manic-depressive. The newspaper also reported that the killer showed signs of autism and had a learning disorder. But Stawicki never received mental health care.


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