MILWAUKEE -- The stepmother of the man believed to have launched a deadly attack on a Sikh temple described him, growing up, as a kind and loving boy who seemed to be well-adjusted.
In a telephone interview, Laurie Page, 67, of Denver discussed Wade Michael Page, 40, who was shot to death by police Sunday. Authorities have said Page attacked a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six people and wounding three.
Sobbing at times, Laurie Page said she got to know Page in Littleton, Colo., before his mother died of lupus in 1985 when he was 13. She said he never had mental health problems and that he had friends and appeared well-adjusted. She described him as “a kind, loving, gentle little boy” who liked to wrestle with friends, camp, fish and play with the dog and his guitar.
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When she and Page's father moved to the Austin, Texas, area, the younger Page stayed with his mother and grandmother in Colorado to finish high school; he then moved to live with the couple in Texas. She said Wade Page was “quiet, soft-spoken” as a teenager, and also musical. He had several guitars, idolized Stevie Ray Vaughn and wrote music of his own -- none of it related to white power, as far as she knew.
“We knew he was very involved with his music, but not that type of music -- no idea whatsoever,” Laurie Page said. Civil rights groups have said Wade Page was a white supremacist who was a member of two racist skinhead bands, End Apathy and Definite Hate.
She said Page left Texas several years after moving there, returning to Colorado to join the military. “He said that it was the best thing he ever did,” Laurie Page said. “He thought he was making a career of the military.”
But Wade Page’s career ended abruptly and he was forced to leave after about six years. While in the service, he was demoted from sergeant, according to officials who asked not to be identified.
Laurie Page lost touch with Wade Page in 1999, still thinking he was in the military. She and Page's father divorced in 2001, and she moved to Denver while he remained in Texas.
She said she spoke to Wade Page's father after the shooting and that “he's devastated.” “He's been sick. He's in seclusion,” she said.
Laurie Page said the family has had trouble understanding how the young man they knew became the man described in media accounts, who played in white supremacist bands and had white power tattoos.
“We had no idea what was going on in his life,” she said. “Up until him going into the service, I just know him as that kind, gentle boy. That's how I have to remember him -- not what he became, but who he was.”
Page speculated that her stepson may have hidden his views and interest in white power from the family because “both his father and I would have voiced our opinions that it wasn't the right thing to do.”
“We're all devastated. We've lost our son and those poor people who lost their lives, their families, our hearts go out to them,” she said. “I don’t know what happened. We're just trying to understand the questions -- why and how did this happen. And we're never going to have an answer.”
She said that two weeks ago, Wade Page sent roses to his grandmother in Colorado, who declined to comment Tuesday.
“It just doesn't make sense,” Laurie Page said. “He had a good childhood. The changes took place after he got into the service.”