November 21, 2009
Fairfield Hills — Newtown, Connecticut
A small crowd, mostly town-government workers and their families, gathered on the old campus of Fairfield Hills Hospital, outside of the building once known as Bridgeport Hall. The office staff, who mostly hadn’t seen each other since Edmond Town Hall closed, had been moving their furniture and files into the renovated structure for weeks, preparing for the big day, and now finally, the town’s offices were again consolidated under one roof: the Newtown Municipal Center. The future of Newtown, first sold in the big vote in the gymnasium of Newtown High School in 2001, was beginning to fall into place, piece by piece.
The town’s first selectman came to cut the ribbon. It was one of his last acts in office; Newtown had just gone to the polls, and a few weeks after the doors opened at the municipal center, there was to be a swearing-in ceremony held there, for the new holder of his office.
The incoming first selectman was no stranger to Newtown, or its government; Pat Llodra had already chaired the town’s school board, as well as the education committee. In 2004, she was the acting principal of Newtown High School, and before that, she was active in the Sandy Hook PTA; records from 2000 show she had successfully campaigned to have a safety fence installed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to ensure students on the playground didn’t chase a ball out into traffic on the neighboring streets.
December 9, 2009
36 Yogananda — Sandy Hook, Connecticut
The door at the top of the stairs was closed.
There was a typo on the Wikipedia page for “Dawson College shooting,” in the section “Weapons” — where the mohawked shooter’s pistol-caliber carbine was listed — someone had put a decimal point in front of “9mm.” Kaynbred corrected it, and left a sarcastic explanation:
Kaynbred: People say that 9mm is anemic, but this is ridiculous.
He went to the page for “Westroads Mall shooting,” and found someone had made an erroneous edit to that article, too, adding hoax information about the scrawny mall shooter’s background. He deleted that, as well.
Then he went to the page for “Luby’s shooting.” Until about a month before, this article had been very short; but then someone had added a section explaining the possible motives of the man who crashed his sparkling blue truck through the window. They had added the details of his enraged comments regarding women, and unlike the Westroads page, it was all reasonably accurate information — but not quite written in Wikipedia’s “objective” tone. Kaynbred undid the changes, restoring the shorter version.
He continued on — to the page for the Wedgwood Baptist Church shooter from shortly after Columbine, the one that had led the then-vice president to declare that a “wave of evil” was passing over the country. A recent edit had added the details about the young man Jeremiah, who had preached to the shooter shortly before it all ended — again, all accurate details. He erased them.
He went to the page for the Springfield High School shooter, the one from Shangri-La who was still locked up, and hearing voices. Kaynbred updated the “weapons” section; the article had until then claimed that this shooter had used a “Ruger .22 semi-automatic rifle,” but he knew that it was, more specifically, a “sawn-off .22LR Ruger 10/22.” He updated the section accordingly.
* * *
Since graduating from high school, and sealing himself in his chamber at the top of the stairs, he had been maintaining a number of documents on his PC’s hard drive, adding to them here and there as he combed the internet. One of the text files, he had saved under the title “tomorrow,” and (as described by the Connecticut State Police) it consisted of text “detailing daily schedule, desires, list of vocabulary words, a list of the benefits of being thin and negative connotations associated with being overweight, [and a] list of goals.”
In late 2018, as the result of the Hartford Courant’s FOIA lawsuit, sections of some of these documents were released to the public. The list obsessing over “thin” and “fat” was among them — essentially a set of motivational statements to oneself, encouraging the pursuit of an eating disorder:
01. You will be FAT if you eat today, just put it off one more day.
02. You don’t NEED food.
03. Fat people can’t fit everywhere.
05. You’ll be able to run faster without all that extra weight holding you back.
06. People will remember you as “the beautiful thin one”.
07. If someone has to describe you, they’ll say “oh she weighs like 90, 100 lbs”.
09. Starving is an example of excellent willpower.
10. You will be able to see your beautiful, beautiful bones.
11. Bones are clean and pure. Fat is dirty and hangs on your bones like a parasite.
17. Anyone can have “inner beauty” but few can earn real beauty, inside as well as out.
While the police description of this text appears accurate, the Courant’s characterization of it (as being written by the user at 36 Yogananda) is not quite: this same “list” had been making the rounds on the internet since at least 2005, in the “pro-ana” community — pro-anorexia. He had simply found the text at some point, copied it, and pasted it into his own Word document, right beneath his daily schedule.
However, the spaces in numbering show that he had made edits, erasing some of the entries from the list (mostly the gendered or fashion-conscious ones, such as “04. Guys will be able to pick you up without struggling” and “13. The models that everyone claims are beautiful, the spitting image of perfection, are any of them fat? NO!”).
The “pro-ana” community was essentially another unforeseen side-effect of the internet’s spread; as an Irish newspaper, the Sunday Independent, wrote in a 2007 article on the phenomenon, such websites were a way for people with eating disorders to gain a sense of community; but they would still be isolated, and, “Underneath all the confessions, poems and pleas for encouragement exchanged between anonymous pro-ana pals is one perilous message: anorexia is not a life-threatening illness but is instead a proud lifestyle choice.” Theirs was a tribe that did not dispute that they met the definition of an eating disorder, but simply denied that it was a disorder at all. And so while no doctor ever diagnosed the user at 36 Yogananda with anorexia, it appears that in a way, he may have diagnosed himself.
Another section of the “tomorrow” document, however, does appear to have been written wholly by him. And it is another list:
expert on “soldiers”
learn python and program games
1970s horror movies
become skilled in philosophy
try being homeless
Correspond with someone you like, such as the writer of X movie.
Parkour and gymnastics
His desire for expertise in “soldiers” and “infantry,” though reflecting an interest that was present ever since he was five years old, may have become euphemistic for something else by this point: these two were the only of his desires to require quotation marks.
Meanwhile, another document of his — a departure from all the text files — was a spreadsheet. And it was growing.
* * *
On the very last day of 2009, on the other side of the planet, a man shot his girlfriend in their apartment in Espoo, Finland. He then walked to the nearby Sello mall, where it is believed his girlfriend’s lover worked. He shot several employees at the mall, and then took his own life. It was the third mass shooting to strike Finland in as many years, and even though this one happened at a mall — not a school — and did not seem to be directly related to, or inspired by, the previous two, it was enough to make some in the country wonder if there was a curse.
* * *
Three weeks after the Sello mall shooting, Kaynbred edited the Wikipedia page for the event: in the “See also” section, someone had listed the 1987 Hungerford attack in the UK. That one never came near a mall; Kaynbred replaced it with another link, to a 1985 attack at a mall near Philadelphia.
In another window, very likely, he had Microsoft Excel open. His spreadsheet listed every mass murder he could locate information on — what he defined as “involving a minimum of four casualties, whether through deaths or injuries,” among other qualifications — and there were columns for each killer’s stats, including number of casualties, disposition, and category of weapon used, where he carefully listed every single weapon, even in the cases where shooters had an entire arsenal. There were columns to track what day of the week an attack occurred, as well as the date. But there was no section for commentary, or notes; this was pure data.
The spreadsheet was sorted by the “kills” column by default, and the latest Finland shooter barely rated. But still, he was one more row to add. The spreadsheet grew. By the time he was done, it would contain thousands and thousands of names.
He knew the top row very well, of course; the all-time global champion had been a South-Korean policeman, who went berserk in 1982 — reportedly after his girlfriend slapped a fly that had landed on his chest while he was sleeping — and broke into the village armory to fuel a rampage that spanned two whole days. His row in the spreadsheet had huge significance. And yet, the document wasn’t a scoreboard, exactly; the user at 36 Yogananda thought of it more like a “catalog.”
* * *
The members of his Combat Arms gaming clan had no clear idea of who “Kaynbred” was. He never mentioned any spreadsheet. But they did start to get some impression of him, from communications on their message board and the hours of in-game chat: he was always sarcastic, sharing some bit of internet humor. And he loved to reference “pedobear.”
On the clan’s forum, someone started a thread, “RL Pictures.” RL was short for “real life” — his teammates were sharing what they really looked like. Others were just posting their old baby pictures.
Kaynbred posted a reply; four days later, he deleted whatever the image was, but several of his teammates had already posted their reactions to it: “Wow o-o kayn. Uhhh. At least your pictures as a child were cute,” and “LOL Kayn, so THATS how it all happened…..”
Around this same time, or in the year that followed, the user at 36 Yogananda acquired a grey 160gb “Storjet” external hard drive, and plugged it into his PC’s USB port. In doing so — whether he intended to or not — he created what would appear to be a backup of his entire hard drive at the time.
One of the files copied over showed a child of around 3 years of age, seated on a carpeted floor, wearing camouflage-print pajamas and a “boonie” hat; he has a small handgun in his tiny hands, and he appears to be teething on the hammer-end. Behind him in the room is a rack laden with guns and ammunition. There is a belt of machine-gun rounds spread across his tiny lap, and a what appears to be a hand grenade on top. The image has the filename “kayntdlr” — Kaynbred toddler.
Another user posted their own baby pictures. A third user commented “what a cutie lol. I have baby pics too but i don’t want to entice Kayn.”
* * *
On December 30th, he went to the Super Columbine Massacre RPG! board. It was the site of the school-shooting discussion he had been following, quietly, for over three years. But this time, for the first time, he clicked “Register.”
He agreed to the forum rules, and certified that he was “over or exactly 13 years of age.” He entered the username had been playing Counter Strike with for weeks: “Smiggles.” As with his other accounts online, it appears he didn’t do anything with it right away. He just had his next persona, ready to go. In the meantime, he still had work to do.
Mg14c did well in the rankings. Kaynbred was a standout among their new recruits. He was playing so much, he had already racked up 83,496 “kills.” One of his teammates even started a forum topic dedicated to screenshots of him in action — “Kayn’s pwnage.”
He downloaded copies of the pics. The external drive made copies, too.
One of the forum users wrote “Kayn scares me,” having talked with him on voice-chat during games. “He sounds exactly like my brother-in-law.” They wrote that the resemblance was even eerier, because their relative was in the air force, and “Kayn mentioned that he wanted to be in the military.”
* * *
One day, Kaynbred posted a YouTube link to the clan forum, showing the Bee Gees performing “Staying Alive.” He said he never realized the high-pitched singers were men. His teammates laughed, and one of them asked “u guys r really that young? I thought evry1 knew the beegees were guys.”
He wrote back.
Kaynbred: I wish I wasn’t. I would gladly be in my sixties if I had a choice.
Other users started naming bands from previous eras, seeing which ones people had heard of. Kaynbred said he didn’t know any musicians more recent than the 1960’s, with two exceptions: The Dickies, who had recorded the theme song to Killer Klowns from Outer Space, and the band Flogging Molly.
As he typed this, in the closet behind him was a small stack of CDs: a half-dozen Flogging Molly albums, and the soundtrack to Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
On another occasion, someone had started a tongue-in-cheek topic about how all of the best Combat Arms players were Asian, and how they should all try and become Asian, to up their game. Kaynbred left a comment:
Kaynbred: I want to be Hiroo Onoda.
Onada was an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II, who did not stand down after the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in 1945. He stayed deployed in the jungles of the Philippines all the way until 1974 — when his former commanding officer, by then a simple book merchant, finally delivered him a letter relieving him of duty. Shortly after his return to civilization, Onada released his autobiography, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War.
There was a copy of this book in the closet, next to the CD’s. Also in the stack was the story of Green Beret Lieutenant James N. Rowe, Five Years to Freedom: The True Story of a Vietnam POW, and the memoir of a Sgt. Franklin D. Miller, Reflections of a Warrior: Six Years as a Green Beret in Vietnam.
Above the books, on a coat hanger, was a vintage military uniform: an olive-drab tunic, with gold stars on the epaulets.
* * *
His mother was worried about him. So was his father. The parents had been exchanging emails more frequently since the new year.
Apparently, he didn’t fare well in A+ Computer Repair. One day, before class, Nancy told Peter that his son had been “crying hysterically on the bathroom floor.”
Peter replied: “[He] needs to communicate the source of his sorrow. We have less than three months to help him before he is 18. I am convinced that when he turns 18 he will either try to enlist or just leave the house to become homeless.”
Nancy wrote back. “I just spent 2 hours sitting outside his door, talking to him about why he is so upset. He failed every single test during that class, yet he thought he knew the material.”
Later that day, she sent a follow-up. “I have the feeling when he said he would rather be homeless than to take any more tests, he really meant it.”
The reference to “more tests” — and their son’s anxiety that day in general — may also have been in the context of entrance exams; lately, he seemed to have his heart set on going to a military college. His parents knew that the time was coming to give their delicate son a reality check.
February 24, 2010
Fairfield County Arms & Munitions Indoor Range — Monroe, Connecticut
Nancy arrived at the gun range to take her examination: the NRA Basic Pistol Course. The instructor, a man named Christian, had been teaching such NRA courses since 1992. And right away, he could tell that Nancy already knew what she was doing.
Guns were on her mind lately. She thought she still had the .45 somewhere back in Kingston, but she was considering selling it, and getting something fancier; when she mentioned this to one of her My Place friends, a retired cop who had just moved to Newtown the year before, he advised her she would need to get a permit to bring the handgun to Connecticut.
That’s why she needed the NRA course — up until the association expanded its mission with the Institute for Legislative Action in 1975, the NRA was mostly known for its safety and marksmanship certifications. In many states, the NRA courses were the only option available; in Connecticut, their course is specifically listed as a requirement in order to obtain a handgun permit.
Nancy passed the course, easily. Christian would see her again at the range, as the months passed, stopping in for target sessions.
At some point, she came in for another NRA certification, and this time, she brought her teenage son along; they each earned another set of certificates, necessary to bring long guns to the range — they still had the Ruger Mini-14 in the house.
Nancy told her friends at My Place about bringing her son to the range. “Guns require a lot of respect, and she really tried to instill that responsibility within him,” the restaurant’s owners recall. “He took to it. He loved being careful with them. He made it a source of pride.”
* * *
His birthday drew closer. She had just, finally, broached the subject with him: about the dream he had been holding onto ever since he wore the green plastic army helmet for Halloween, back in Kingston. And how that dream was never going to come true.
One of Nancy’s friends from the neighborhood, named Ellen, heard the whole story. She would tell the Connecticut Post that for years, Nancy had “liked the idea that the military would give [her son] purpose, a career path and structure to his life.” But in early 2010, “It became overwhelmingly clear to her that it wasn’t right for him.” Nancy summarily “squashed” the idea, reminding her son that he didn’t like to be touched; if he were ever injured on the battlefield, “doctors and medics would have to handle him, to treat him.” Indeed, his mother had been making excuses, ever since he was a child, for why he couldn’t be closely examined, such as needles causing him to faint. He couldn’t even handle middle school, let alone basic training.
Her son took the news hard. She felt bad for him; even if he wasn’t up to the physical rigors of being an elite soldier, she truly believed that deep down, he would have at least been ready for that level of responsibility. She would bet her life on it.
36 Yogananda — Sandy Hook, Connecticut
The door was closed.
He clicked “save” on the spreadsheet. Then, “export.” He gave it the filename “colgam” — Columbine Game.
Kaynbred logged out of GlockTalk for the last time. Then, the High Road. Then Wikipedia. He uninstalled Combat Arms, and quit his clan. The identity “Kaynbred” was never heard from publicly again.
He went to the Columbine discussion forum, and logged in as “Smiggles.” He clicked “New Topic” and entered the subject line for his new post — likely, his first ever on the board: “Comprehensive list of mass murderers and their attributes.” He attached the exported images of the spreadsheet, and hit “SUBMIT” — sharing his months of research with the world.
He planned to continue refining the data, and so in that sense, the project was not truly done. Nevertheless, he had crossed a milestone: he was done shopping.