By CHUCK HAGA
Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
March 25, 2005
BEMIDJI, Minn. - Jeff Weise had "a good relationship" with the grandfather he shot and killed as prelude to his deadly assault on students and others at Red Lake High School, according to relatives who are struggling to understand what might have pushed the teenager from sometimes bizarre behavior to mass murder and suicide.
They have sifted through the traumas of his childhood: his father's suicide, the car accident that left his mother with reduced mental capacity, the shuttling between the Red Lake Reservation and the Twin Cities, and the taunts of peers over his appearance, size and outsider behavior.
They wondered, too, about medication he was supposedly taking for depression, and a recent increase in his prescribed dosage.
Lee Cook, director of the American Indian Cultural Center at Bemidji State University and a first cousin to Sgt. Daryl (Dash) Lussier, the grandfather, talked about Monday's tragedy after meeting on the reservation with Lussier's brother, three daughters and other family members.
"The daughters said Jeff loved his grandfather, and his grandfather loved him," Cook said. "There had never been any serious differences or harsh words between them.
"They were surprised by all of this, but they were stunned he would shoot his grandfather."
The .22-caliber rifle that Weise, 16, apparently used to kill Lussier and his companion, Michele Sigana, "might have been Dash's rifle, one he kept around for the kids for hunting," Cook said.
Weise's relatives "knew he had a problem with depression, and they took him to treatment," Cook said. "He was getting counseling." His medication dosage had been increased a week earlier, Cook added.
His grandmother, Shelda Lussier, 54, said he saw a mental-health professional at Red Lake Hospital on Feb. 21, the same day his prescription was refilled for 60 milligrams a day of Prozac, which he had been taking since last summer, The Washington Post reported.
Studies have linked Prozac and similar antidepressants to a greater risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in kids. In October, the Food and Drug Administration revised the drugs' packaging to warn health professionals that they should closely monitor young patients when an antidepressant is prescribed or the dose is changed.
Prozac's manufacturer said monitoring patients being treated for depression is critical, especially if they are children.
Weise, in hundreds of postings attributed to him on the Internet over the past year or so, noted that he was on antidepressants, was going through and had attempted suicide at least once by cutting his wrists.
In a posting in January, Weise also wrote of his regret over not having ended his life and hinted that another attempt could be on the way. Friends of Weise said this week that he had tried to kill himself earlier this year.
School officials and others have refused to discuss his medical situation except to confirm that he was placed on "homebound status" this year for an unspecified medical problem.
Relatives also "knew he spent time on the Internet, but they didn't really know what he was into there," Cook said, and reports detailing Weise's postings on a Nazi Web site have them shaking their heads.
Weise, under a variety of user names, also visited other sites dealing with everything from government conspiracies to surviving school shootings. Last fall, he posted a bloody animated video on the Internet in which four people are shot to death before the gunman shoots himself. "He was brighter than usual and had a vocabulary more like a college student than a 16-year-old," Cook said.
Weise also had a traumatic early childhood, moving from school to school and experiencing the loss of both parents before he was 10 years old. His father, Daryl Lussier Jr., committed suicide in July 1997 during a police standoff on the reservation. Weise's mother, Joanne, suffered brain damage in 1999 when she and a friend crashed their car after drinking.
(Chuck Haga is at crhaga(at)startribune.com.)