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The Cyber World Shut Out O.C. Loner Too

Aliso Viejo teen who couldn't make friends turned to the Internet only to be rebuffed. He killed two neighbors, then took his own life.

November 06, 2005|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

"You don't need as much social skills when you type messages," Edelson said.

But even there -- in the last place Freund sought advice and friendship -- the security of his online world unraveled in his final two weeks.

He rambled about wanting to commit suicide and the ways he had tried: asphyxia, lethal and inert gases, and hanging. He needed, he said, to "get away from the stress of the world for a bit."

And he hinted at his imminent death, suggesting that he might not make it to Halloween. He wanted to give away his pug on craigslist.org. On Oct. 19, he posted on the Asperger's syndrome website wrongplanet.net: "I think the only thing to do is go admit myself to a hospital.... I feel like I need to kill myself."

In those last two weeks, his messages became frantic; some were almost incomprehensible, filled with typos and run-ons. He sounded crazy -- so much so that some people thought he was playing an Internet joke.

In one posting, Freund said his plans were to "Start a Terror Campaign To hurt those that have hurt me, My future ended some time ago."

During a discourse on a firearms forum on somethingawful.com, described by the founder as a Mad magazine for the Internet, he detailed plans to get even with pranksters he said had terrorized his neighborhood and shot up his pumpkin last Halloween. He boasted that he spent about $5,000 preparing for "this Halloween shootout."

The responses were harsh and occasionally cruel. One reply on Oct. 26 asked: "Wait wait, people are shooting pumpkins with BB guns, and you're going to respond with 'a bunch off 9mm rounds heading your way!'? Are you ... retarded?"

Another said: "I can imagine this mongoloid, sitting on his creaky porch, one strap on his overalls, leaping up and running to the defense of his precious 24-ounce pumpkin."

Some told him he was no longer welcome. They asked him to leave and never come back.

"I think the craziest part is it was actually real," said Rich Kyanka, 29, the webmaster of somethingawful.com.

"Obviously if you could go back in time and know this guy is serious and was mentally disturbed, you could do something about it."

But if anybody tried, it came too late for Freund and Vernon Smith, 45, and his daughter Christina Smith, 22, the two neighbors he gunned down.

On Oct. 26, three days before his shooting rampage, Freund's obnoxious comments got him banned from Kyanka's website. The world that Freund had escaped to began slamming the door.

Even online, he was a social failure.

He died knowing it and feared no one would grieve for him. "No friends," Freund wrote, "all enemies."

Former classmate Lavranos wouldn't describe himself as Freund's friend either. He wishes now that he could.

"We're all human beings trying to find our happiness," Lavranos said.

"Here's a guy ... who had it really hard and nobody made it any easier for him."

\o7News aide Sheena Tahilramani researched this story. Staff writers Mai Tran and Christine Hanley contributed.

\f7

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