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Colorado High School Reopens

Officials have closed the room where six students were held hostage and molested, and one was killed. Classmates try to get back to normal.

October 06, 2006|From the Associated Press

BAILEY, Colo. — Students streamed back to their reopened high school on Thursday, a week after a gunman took six girls hostage in a classroom, sexually assaulted them and then killed one.

Pink ribbons fluttered from markers along the highway leading to Platte Canyon High School, and pink paper signs carried messages such as "Be Strong," "Random Acts of Kindness" and "I love U guys" -- the text message slain student Emily Keyes sent her father while she was held hostage.

Some students prayed outside before school, and 50 mental-health professionals were on hand to provide counseling. Donated teddy bears were waiting for every student as they left, Supt. Jim Walpole said.

"It's a little scary, but I'm kind of glad we're going back so we can try to get into a routine and kind of get back to normal," sophomore Hannah Mladjan said.

Duane Morrison, 53, took the girls hostage in the classroom on Sept. 27 and molested or sexually assaulted them before releasing four, Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said.

Keyes, 16, and another girl were still in the room when a SWAT team blasted its way in. Morrison shot Keyes to death as she tried to run and then shot himself; SWAT officers also hit him with three shots, authorities said.

Dist. Atty. Molly Chilson said Thursday that a preliminary autopsy investigation indicated Morrison died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Keyes' mother said in an interview slated to air today on NBC's "Today" that she thought Wegener made the right call in storming the classroom, which school officials have sealed off for the rest of the year.

"Yeah, maybe if he did something different ... there would have been a different result. But we can play the what-if game all day and come up with a million different answers," Ellen Keyes said. "This is what happened, and after he spoke to us about the details and everything that went on there, we just agreed with him that he made the right decision."

Emily's father, John Michael Keyes, declined to speak on the record. But Wegener, who spoke at a memorial service for Emily, said the Keyes family has given him strength.

"John Michael said, 'It was a decision that you made, we understand how you made the decision, and we're right there with you,' " Wegener said.

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