Reporting from Tucson — Jared Lee Loughner's friends have spent recent days asking themselves how someone they trusted had transformed into the suspect in a shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Kelsey Hawkes, 21, dated Loughner when he was a sophomore and she was a freshman at Mountain View High School in Tucson.
Hawkes, now a junior at the University of Arizona, where President Obama is scheduled to speak at a memorial for the shooting victims Wednesday night, said in an e-mail that she has been "bombarded" by reporters asking about her involvement with Loughner.
"I get the impression that people are trying to figure out if I would know what is going on inside Jared's head or why he may have chosen to shoot all those people last Saturday," Hawkes wrote. "The truth is, I have had absolutely no contact with Jared in over five years -- I haven't seen, nor spoken to him in that time. Yes, we dated in high school, but it was no different than any other high school boyfriend-girlfriend thing that's ever existed."
At the time, she said, Loughner was the kind of person she wanted to date.
"He was completely different back then than he is now. He was very sweet, caring, and kind, had no interest in drugs or alcohol, and had a big interest in music. He didn't start acting differently until AFTER we had been broken up. While we were still dating he had never shown any signs that he would become the person he is today," Hawkes wrote.
Hawkes said she and Loughner broke up "for typical reasons that you see in high school: nothing out of the ordinary, nothing significant."
Afterward, she said, they did not remain friends.
She said she kept track of him after he left high school, started taking classes at Pima Community College and began changing his lifestyle.
"I had noticed that he had started getting into alcohol and drugs," she wrote in the e-mail.
Looking back, Hawkes said, Loughner definitely changed after high school, but not because of their breakup, as some people have implied.
"I've just been very overwhelmed by everybody tracking me down and trying to get information out of me that I don't have, or trying to pin our breakup on his behavioral change," Hawkes wrote. "I did date Jared Loughner six years ago in high school, but he's not the same Jared Loughner that the world now knows as a mass murderer -- not the same person at all. What he chose to do with himself and his life between the time that we weren't dating and what he did on Saturday is far beyond me."