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Clues to Massacre Sought in Slayer's Home Computer

August 24, 1986|From Times Wire Services

EDMOND, Okla. — Authorities, seeking to learn what led postal worker Patrick Henry Sherrill to shoot 14 people to death in the post office, were interviewing co-workers, relatives and neighbors and trying to get access to the information in his home computers, it was reported Saturday.

Meanwhile, counselors skilled in helping people cope with tragedies joined mental health workers at two centers set up to aid families of victims, co-workers and others affected by Wednesday's massacre.

In looking for clues to Sherrill's actions, investigators examined hundreds of computer floppy disks and cassette tapes, mostly unlabeled, in his Oklahoma City house.

Police Lt. Ron Cavin said a reprimand for poor work given to Sherrill the day before the shootings might not have been the major factor leading to his actions, saying: "Maybe it was a series of events."

Investigators, including an FBI agent with computer training, failed to crack the access code Sherrill had devised for one of his two Radio Shack computers.

Investigators took custody of disks and cassettes and will give them to a computer expert, who will try to crack the code.

"There were also some (video) game tapes. But the ones that really intrigued us are the ones we couldn't get into," Cavin said. "What they have, we don't know. There might be something that says why he did what he did, what brought him to this point. There might even be a suicide note."

Cavin said investigators also were pondering the possible significance of a pamphlet found in the home, titled, "Dying: the Greatest Adventure of My Life--a family doctor tells his story."

The investigators had resumed interviews with the estimated 90 workers at the shooting scene and others who knew Sherrill.

"We're trying to figure out what led up to this tragedy, what made him crack," Cavin said. "I feel that we need to know why the man did it.

"We're not taking this thing to court, and there will be no trial, but the community itself probably needs an answer," he said. "We feel obligated, not only to the community but to those who died, to find out why. I lost a very dear friend in the tragedy, and I'd like to know why."

Some of those offering counseling have opened crisis centers across the street from the post office and at a church.

Meanwhile, eight more burials were held Saturday, six in Oklahoma.

"We've experienced pain, haven't we? You bet we have," the Rev. Finley Tinnin said at the Oklahoma City funeral of Patty J. Husband, 48, a five-year postal employee.

At a funeral Mass in Edmond for Paul Michael Rockne, 33-year-old grandson of Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football coach, about 150 postal workers were among the 700 mourners. Three dozen postal employees wore their uniforms with black armbands.

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