September 30, 2006
Bailey gunman wrote of coming death
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BAILEY - The gunman who took six girls hostage in a high school standoff that ended in his suicide and the slaying of a 16-year-old student sent his brother a long, rambling letter warning of his impending death, investigators said Friday.
The 14-page letter from Duane Morrison was postmarked Wednesday in nearby Shawnee - the same day of the attack.
Morrison claimed in the letter that it was not a suicide note, Sheriff Fred Wegener said.
"However, many times, the letter references suicide," Wegener said. "This letter clearly acknowledges his pending death. It also apologizes to his family for his actions that will occur."
The sheriff added: "It says a series of events, or some events, were not going to make his family proud."
The letter contains no reference to Platte Canyon High or any other school, nor is there a reference to harming anyone, authorities said. It left investigators with no known connection between the gunman and this mountain town of about 3,500 people 35 miles from Denver.
Morrison, 53, sexually molested all six girls, then turned four of them loose before SWAT teams stormed the classroom, the sheriff said. During a gun battle with police, Morrison fatally wounded Emily Keyes with a single shot to the back of her head, then killed himself.
The letter "doesn't tell me a lot of why," the sheriff said, but it does suggest "he probably intended to kill both the young ladies and then kill himself, or have us shoot him."
"It makes me realize a calculated outcome was inevitable," Wegener said. "When I say calculated, it was going to be him or us to end it."
A copy of the letter was not released but Denver station KUSA-TV reported it alluded several times to Morrison being molested. It also made arrangements for Morrison's personal belongings, according to the station, which did not say how it learned the contents of the letter.
Investigators have identified Morrison as a petty criminal who had a Denver address but apparently had been living in a Denver motel and possibly in his battered Jeep. They also traced the handgun used in the shooting to one of Morrison's brothers, who gave them the still-sealed letter on Thursday.
One of the hostages, Lynna Long, told the Rocky Mountain News that she was groped above the waist but believes Keyes "got it worse." Lynna said that she was afraid to look, "but you could hear Emily saying, `No. Please don't.'"
Lynna said all the girls had been told to stand facing a wall, and she could not see what Morrison was doing, but she knew the other girls were being molested because "you could hear the rustling of clothes and elastic being snapped and zippers being opened and closed."
The newspaper said Lynna and her mother had agreed to allow Lynna to be identified by name. She did not respond to requests for an interview Friday.
Authorities say they know of no connection between Morrison and the hostages he held for four hours after bursting into a college prep English class.
The sheriff said Morrison approached a male high school student on the day of the attack and "asked about the identity of a list of female students." Wegener said he was not sure if it was a written list or names rattled off by Morrison.
The gunman also spent some time a riverside clearing a mile north of the school. Wegener said an assault rifle found in the secluded spot apparently belonged to Morrison.
"He'd obviously been in the area staking it out," said Randy Marsh, a local hardware store employee who remembers seeing Morrison's Jeep as long as six weeks ago. "He didn't draw attention to himself."
Video from cameras outside the school show Morrison sitting in his Jeep in the parking lot for about 20 minutes and then mingling with students as classes changed, nearly 35 minutes before the siege began, KCNC-TV in Denver reported.
Lance Clem, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, said investigators are reviewing the surveillance tapes and 911 calls. He said they would not immediately be released, and autopsy reports aren't expected to be made public before next week.
Authorities released a recording of a 2004 call Morrison made to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership in the Denver area after he received a holiday catalog in the mail. His call led to a harassment charge.
"Hey, Duane Morrison here," the tape begins. "I just wonder if you (slur) are responsible for sending this to me. I'd sure like to get this stopped. I guess my last threat down there didn't carry very far."
Later, he says: "What do you think it will take to get this stopped? Uh, maybe a visit with an assault rifle? ... I'd sure hate for it to come to that."
Jesse Williams, 38, who worked as a maintenance supervisor at the Denver apartment complex where Morrison used to live, recalled female residents complaining about lewd or suggestive comments from Morrison.
"He was always talking about girls," Williams said. "If there was a girl who was younger out at the pool, he was outside. I mean, every time.
"Guys will be guys, but when you're 50-some-years old and you're out there looking at 16-year-olds at the pool in their bikinis, I thought that was a little strange," Williams said. "I said 'Are you always out here when there are girls at the pool?' and he just smiled."
Last year, someone broke into Morrison's apartment and stole more than a dozen handguns and rifles, according to a police report. Morrison estimated his loss in the thousands.
Williams said he recalled seeing at least 20 guns in the apartment when he was inside.
"We had a conversation about the right to bear arms. He really liked his guns," Williams said. "I thought it was a little odd that a guy would have so many guns. He had an overabundance."
Classes were canceled for the rest of the week in Bailey as the community tried to come to grips with the bloodshed, which evoked memories of the 1999 shooting rampage that left 15 dead at Columbine High School, less than an hour's drive away.
The community gathered Friday night for a vigil at a Crow Hill Bible Church in Bailey. Ed Whittemore, of Bailey, home schools his children and was changing his work clothes in the parking lot, having driven there straight from work in Denver to attend.
"When people offend kids like that, my heart hurts. My heart draws me here. I don't even know why," he said.
"I wish I could say something more profound. I'm a big guy, and I cried when I heard about it. School should be safe."
Associated Press Writers Don Mitchell and Kim Nguyen contributed to this report.