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Published: Thursday, 8/6/2009

Pittsburgh area health club murderer had hatred for women

BY LILLIAN THOMAS
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

PITTSBURGH - George Sodini scrupulously recorded his fury, his plans, and the date he expected to die. He practiced the murderous routine he'd mapped out, and backed out at least once before dressing in black on Tuesday, arming himself with four pistols, and gunning down 12 women in a dance class.

He fired one final shot from a 45-caliber pistol into his head.

The shooting occurred just after 8 p.m. in LA Fitness Center in Collier Township, a Pittsburgh suburb.

Heidi Overmier, 46, of Carnegie, and Elizabeth Gannon, 49, of Green Tree, died at the scene. Jody Billingsley, 37, of Mount Lebanon, died at a hospital.


Stacey Falk describes what she saw during the shooting in an exercise class at LA Fitness in Bridge ville, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb. Three women were killed and nine injured in Tuesday s rampage. Stacey Falk describes what she saw during the shooting in an exercise class at LA Fitness in Bridge ville, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb. Three women were killed and nine injured in Tuesday s rampage.
GENE J. PUSKAR / AP Enlarge

Nine others were wounded; at least one of those has been re-leased.

Allegheny County police yesterday released a list of the victims, including those who were wounded, who were taken to three hospitals. They are:

•Lisa Fleeher, 27, critical condition.

•Ashley Ferragonio, 23, serious.


Detectives found four rifles and shotguns in George Sodini s home. Federal agents are examining his computer to piece together his online rants and any other evidence.
<br>
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif><b><font color=red> Read</b></font>: <a hrefhttp://www.postgazette.com" target="_blank "><font color=blue><b> More coverage from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:</font color=blue></b></a> Videos, other multimedia Detectives found four rifles and shotguns in George Sodini s home. Federal agents are examining his computer to piece together his online rants and any other evidence. <br> <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/weblink_icon.gif><b><font color=red> Read</b></font>: <a hrefhttp://www.postgazette.com" target="_blank "><font color=blue><b> More coverage from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:</font color=blue></b></a> Videos, other multimedia
BOB DONALDSON / PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE Enlarge

•Jackquilyne Gallagher, 25, serious.

•Srimeenakish Sankar, 31, serious.

•Gretchen Lewis, 26, critical.

•Melina Williams, 22, serious.

•Mary Primus, 26, critical.

•Heather Sherba, 22, serious.

•Stephanie Latusick, 33, treated and released.

The blog kept by Sodini, 48, of Scott Township, Pennsylvania, indicates he planned the shooting for months. It is headed with personal information that includes both his birth date - "DOB 9/30/1960" - and a death date: "DOD 8/4/2009."

Though his anger and frustration over not being able to connect with women were reflected in his online writings and two notes he left behind, he apparently did not know any of the women he targeted at the fitness club, said Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt.

"He had no relationship to anyone in the club that we know of," he said yesterday.

Sodini, an employee of the international law firm K&L Gates since 1999, visited the club earlier Tuesday, starting at about 11 a.m., when he first used the club's card swipe to check in. Members aren't required to check out, so police aren't sure when he left. No one at the club remembers seeing Sodini, but Superintendent Moffatt said that's not surprising because the club has 3,800 members.

He swiped back in at about

7:40 p.m., then stepped back out to make a cell phone call to someone police would not identify.

Superintendent Moffatt said Sodini had a conversation with that person and that police were "in the process" of contacting him or her, but he would say no more about the conversation.

Sodini then returned at 7:56 p.m.

He carried four guns when he walked into the club just before 8 p.m. - two 9mm pistols with 30-round clips, a 45-caliber pistol, and a .32 semiautomatic in his pocket. He also had two extra 30-round clips in his gym bag.

Dressed in black pants and a black jacket and wearing a black headband, he walked into the exercise room where the aerobics class was being held and turned out the lights.

He then walked 10 feet into the room, dropped the gym bag, and started firing, emptying one 9mm, the shots splintering mirrors in the room. Fleeing women scattered, running to his side to get out of the glass doors.

One woman narrowly avoided being shot by diving behind thick aerobics mats, which absorbed a slug. He drew a second 9mm gun and fired, but stopped shooting before emptying the weapon, leaving 12 rounds in the clip.

He fired at least 36 rounds, then drew his .45 and shot himself in the head, collapsing against a wall between a set of aerobic steps. He never used the .32, leaving it in his pocket.

The entire episode lasted about a minute, Superintendent Moffatt said.

Collier police Chief Thomas Devin said his department received a dispatch from 911 at

8:16 p.m. that there had been a shooting at LA Fitness. Responding police found a chaotic scene. The bodies of Ms. Gannon, Ms. Overmier, and Sodini were found in the aerobics room where the dance class was held, and shell casings littered the bloody floor.

About 70 people were in the gym at the time the gunman opened fire.

Dozens of ambulances, police cars, and other emergency vehicles converged on the area, They were soon joined by dozens of concerned relatives and friends of people who were inside the club at the time of the shooting.

Identifying the victims was difficult because most in the gym didn't have identification on them.

A search of Sodini's bag revealed a typed note in which he complained about being rejected by women and his hatred for them. A search of his house turned up a handwritten note in which Sodini said he planned to kill himself.

Detectives also found four rifles and shotguns in the house and seized his computer, which federal agents are examining to piece together his online rants and any other evidence of his mindset and plans.

Police were processing Sodini's car yesterday.

Agents from the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the scene and offered their help, Superintendent Moffatt said, and ATF traced three of Sodini's weapons.

He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and legally owned three of the guns. He bought the two 9mms in 2008 and the .45 this year.

Superintendent Moffatt wasn't sure about the history of the .32.

Police said Sodini carefully planned the attack and apparently targeted the aerobics class because it contained all women. At his house, detectives found a gym schedule on which he had circled the Latin Impact class.

His blog indicates he attempted to carry out the shooting at least one other time, on Jan. 6. He wrote in his blog that he entered the club with loaded guns but didn't go through with it.

"It is 8:45PM: I chickened out!" he wrote. "I brought the loaded guns, everything."

The journal also names family members and acquaintances, and he expresses rage at many of them, as well as frustration at not being able to "connect" with women.

On Aug. 3 he wrote: "I took off today, Monday, and tomorrow to practice my routine and make sure it is well polished. I need to work out every detail, there is only one shot. Total effort needed. Tomorrow is the big day."

County computer crimes investigators are reviewing the blog to see who else might have read it, if they knew what he was planning, and, if so, why no one came forward.

Superintendent Moffatt said there was no legal obligation to do so, but a moral and ethical one. Police have no knowledge that Sodini had a mental health treatment history, nor did he have any prior police record.

Police yesterday morning questioned the Rev. Rick Knapp of Tetelestai Church, who was mentioned in the blog. Mr. Knapp went to police yesterday morning because he was concerned his name and contact information were in the blog,.

Mr. Knapp said he knew Sodini as a member of his congregation, but was not well acquainted with him. Sodini left the church in 2006, he said. In his blog, Sodini wrote that the pastor had convinced him that "you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven."

The pastor said he had never talked to Sodini along those lines, according to police.

But whatever insights anyone was able to provide to Sodini's motives, it meant little to the relatives and friends of those who died by such a random act of rage.

"Of course there's anger," said Connie Moneck, the sister of Heidi Overmier. "Not so much anger, [you] just total can't comprehend why someone would do this to perfectly innocent people," Ms. Moneck, 52, said.

"It was just totally random."

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Lillian Thomas is a reporter at the Post-Gazette.

Post-Gazette staff writers Sadie Gurman, Torsten Ove, Paula Reed Ward, and Victor Zapana contributed to this report.



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