state police arrived a few minutes later. Strand later said to police, “If it hadn’t been a kid, I’d have killed him.”

Parents began to arrive at Nick’s Place just a few minutes later to pick up their children from the dance, finding instead a scene of complete pandemonium, with police cars, ambulances, television news crews, and clusters of sobbing children. Panicked parents rushed in to find their children, making it difficult for police to maintain the crime scene. One of those parents was Catherine Wurst. As she frantically looked for Andrew, she was pulled over to police investigators by Patricia Crist, the principal. “Here’s the shooter’s mother,” Crist announced.

Andrew Wurst was arraigned before District Justice Denise Stuck-Lewis on April 25, 1998, on a charge of criminal homicide. Andrew was very quiet and showed no emotion in court. Were Andrew to be convicted in juvenile court, he would be released automatically when he turned 21 years old. Were he to be convicted as an adult of first-degree murder, he would face life in prison with no chance of parole. (According to Pennsylvania law, the death penalty cannot be imposed on offenders younger than age 16.) Erie County district attorney Joseph P. Conti made clear from the beginning that he would seek to have Andrew tried as an adult.


Rumors circulated immediately after the shooting that there was a list of targets and that two of Andrew’s friends had vowed to “finish” the job he had started. A girl told police that one of those friends had said this to her directly. Early news accounts revealed that Andrew had tipped off several classmates about his plans, which fed concerns about a possible conspiracy. The police later received reports of an overheard conversation, with one boy going up to Andrew to say, “I’m out.” As the police got to know more about Andrew’s friends, they even began to wonder if one of them was a “puppet master” who may have manipulated Andrew into using the gun or at least encouraged him. Police were quite right to pursue these theories, but presently there is no credible evidence of any conspiracy. Andrew appears to have acted alone.

What was Andrew’s state of mind when he opened fire? His very actions show that he was troubled, but was he mentally ill? This claim was the crux of Andrew’s legal defense. Robert L. Sadoff, a nationally reputed forensic psychiatrist and a sought-after expert witness, examined Andrew during four interviews totaling over eight hours. Based on those interviews, plus meetings with Andrew’s parents and various other records, Sadoff concluded in his official report that Andrew suffers from “a major mental illness, with psychotic thinking and delusions of perse

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