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Police Look for Clues to What Fueled Seattle Killer's Rage

Kyle Huff was known as polite and quiet. No one, even his twin brother, seems aware of a motive.

March 30, 2006|Sam Howe Verhovek | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE — Along with his twin brother Kane, Aaron Kyle Huff was voted "least school-spirited" in his senior year of high school in 1996, in the small northwest Montana town of Whitefish.

The quiet twins -- both 6 feet 4 and pushing 275 pounds, with mops of long hair and oft-unshaven faces -- were nicknamed the Wooks because, classmates said, they looked like the large furry Wookiee creature Chewbacca in "Star Wars."

Kyle Huff never caused much trouble in Whitefish, authorities say, with one exception: One summer night in 2000, using his 12-gauge Winchester pistol-grip shotgun and a .40-caliber semi-automatic Ruger handgun, he blew a fiberglass moose sculpture to bits outside a bed and breakfast.

He was charged with felony criminal mischief, and his guns were taken away. But a year later, after apologizing for what he called a "stupid, drunken act," agreeing to community service for the Salvation Army and copping to a misdemeanor plea, Kyle Huff got his guns back.

They were the same guns he used Saturday morning, when he charged into a rental house in Seattle and shot six people to death at an all-night, post-rave dance party.

Moments later, as a police officer arrived and ordered him to drop his weapons, Kyle Huff put the shotgun in his mouth and fired.

The senseless rampage and suicide in the well-to-do Capitol Hill neighborhood -- the city's biggest mass murder in more than 20 years -- have shaken Seattle to its core.

The bloody deaths are all the more striking for the young victims' poignantly nonviolent lives: Among the dead are a 14-year-old girl nicknamed "Chinadoll"; a 15-year-old girl who told classmates that Mahatma Gandhi was her role model; and a 26-year-old man who had worked as a clown.

But what remains a mystery to police, to his friends and neighbors -- and even to the man who was his identical twin and roommate, police say -- is what inner rage drove Kyle Huff to kill.

There is nothing pointing to "some predicate event to this rampage," said Seattle Deputy Police Chief Clark Kimerer. But Huff, 28, who had worked delivering pizzas for the last several months, was "clearly intent on doing homicidal mayhem," Kimerer said.

Toxicology tests, which will not be available for a few days, may shed some light on whether Kyle Huff was drunk or under the influence of any other drugs.

He apparently wasn't well known to the partygoers, who had been to a zombie-themed rave, with fake blood and macabre costumes, that started Friday night.

On a rave-dance website, a "Kyle Huff" posted this message early last month: "Hey, I've never been to a rave in Seattle and was wondering if anyone could tell me when one is coming up."

Kyle Huff attended the Capitol Hill rave and someone there reportedly invited him to the after-party.

Attendees recalled that Kyle Huff drank a few bottles of beer and seemed quiet. He left at about 6:50 a.m.; from there, he went back to his truck, took up weapons and returned a few minutes later. He shot two people dead on the porch, killed four more in the living room, and then went upstairs and downstairs, firing through locked doors and in the small spaces where partygoers hid.Police have seized Kyle Huff's computer and are looking for clues to his motives. None have emerged, Kimerer said.

Aside from the 2000 incident with the moose sculpture, officers are looking at the only other time Kyle Huff's name appears to have shown up in police records here or in his native Montana: a May 2004 altercation outside a Seattle music club, in which Kyle and Kane Huff, listed as the victims in the report, told police they had been attacked by a group of "skinheads."

Kane Huff has been interviewed but is not considered a suspect, police say: He was out grocery shopping when officers first showed up to look for evidence, shortly after the shooting, at the north Seattle apartment he and his brother shared. He told them he was dumbfounded.

At the three-story Town & Country apartment complex, across a busy thoroughfare from an Indian- and Pakistani-foods market, neighbors described the Huff brothers as polite and quiet, save for the occasional drumming they practiced, always at respectable hours.

The two were fans of country music and often helped out their elders in the 83-unit complex, especially by carrying groceries and other shopping items for them.

The Huffs never caused damage, provoked complaints or missed the $795 monthly rent, said Jim Pickett, assistant manager of the apartment complex.

In Whitefish, where the brothers grew up and where their mother runs an art gallery, classmates and former teachers said they had no inkling Kyle Huff would one day commit murder.

"He was very quiet; I never had a discipline problem with him, not a single time," said his pottery teacher at Whitefish High, Martin Christiansen. "I never saw him angry."

Several people said the shooting of the moose sculpture, at least at the time, seemed a by-product of drunken mischief, not a warning of homicidal rage.

"Everybody figured it was just a deal where he was not using his head and probably had a few beers in him," said Mick Hoon, a water deliveryman in Whitefish whose son, Dusty, was a classmate of the twins.

Kyle liked guns and liked to hunt, Hoon said, but so does just about every other boy who grows up in Whitefish.

"The moose thing was dumb, of course," he added. "But there were never any problems after that. There was no history or pattern. So to say it threw up a big red flag, well, honestly, no, that just wasn't there.

"We're all just worried now about Kane," Hoon said. "No one's heard from him, not that I know. Those boys were so close. So my concern is his mental state. How is he doing?"

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