Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Tennessee Jury Finds Preacher's Wife Guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter; Signs of Mental Illness Evident Early in Virginia Tech Shooter's Life?; Virginia Tech Students React to Killer's Message

Aired April 19, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
We continue to focus on the many troubling questions caused by the Virginia Tech massacre.

Tonight, coming up in this special hour: the rage of Cho Seung- Hui. We know much more than ever about what inspired him and how he prepared. But why did he snap?

Well, his family says Cho suffered from mental illness all his life, but was there really an indication he would ever become a killer?

And will there be a backlash against Korean Americans? Some Virginia Tech parents are telling their sons and daughters, come home now. And I will talk with some of their students about reactions to that plea.

We are also following a breaking story out of Tennessee tonight where a jury has reached a stunning verdict in the trial of a preacher's wife accused of killing her husband. It is a case that grabbed national headlines when it broke. And we will get to that in just a little bit.

But, first, the investigation into the Virginia Tech massacre has turned up some fascinating new answers and even more disturbing questions. We're going to spend most of the hour on Virginia Tech tonight, starting with some of the shockwaves caused by Cho's very own words and pictures.

Let's turn to Ted Rowlands. He's been following the outrage over NBC's decision to show them to the world, as well as to the authorities.

Ted, what have you found?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, first off, today, the governor of Virginia announced an independent review panel will be formed to look into the decisions made following this tragedy.

He says not to second-guess anybody, but just to make Virginia a safer state. As you alluded to, one decision that is being second- guessed, especially here on campus, was the decision by the media to show Cho's video and writings and photographs. They believe that the media should not have done that, and some of these victims are suffering for a second time.


ROWLANDS (voice-over): While the images and rants mailed by Cho Seung-Hui shocked the world, here, on the Virginia Tech campus, investigators say they're searching for evidence in the 43 photographs, in the videos, and the writings.


CHO SEUNG-HUI, VIRGINIA TECH GUNMAN: I didn't have to do this. I could have left.


ROWLANDS: The video and photos are chilling proof that Cho spent weeks planning his deadly attack and that he wanted the world to see him.

COLONEL STEVEN FLAHERTY, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: We're rather disappointed in the editorial decision to broadcast these disturbing images.

ROWLANDS: At a morning news conference, Colonel Steve Flaherty of the Virginia State Police joined a growing number of people criticizing the media for showing Cho's messages from the grave.

ERIN SHEEHAN, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Yes, that really disturbs me.

ROWLANDS: Erin Sheehan was of approximately 25 students in a German class attacked by Cho. She was of only four who weren't seriously injured or killed.

Watching Cho's video messages was upsetting to Erin, especially one section in which Cho describes himself as a victim, describes his blood being spilled.

SHEEHAN: His blood, then 30-some other people's. And I think that just shows how sick and self-absorbed he was.

ROWLANDS: In the center of the Virginia Tech campus, where a memorial sprang up spontaneously, more flowers, more notes, and, today, more people angry at the all-pervasive images of Cho.

MARY LAWSON, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: You can't turn the TV on or go to any Internet site without seeing that picture of him holding the gun to his head or to the camera.

ROWLANDS: Ryan Baetsen is a freshman at Virginia Tech. His friend, Caitlin Hammaren, was one of at least 30 people murdered by Cho.

RYAN BAETSEN, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: And it is upsetting to me to see the video, because it's -- it's so grotesque. And what he's saying is just so nonsensical and so violent and so evil, that it's -- it's hard to watch.

ROWLANDS: People on campus say they hope that the lasting images of this tragedy will not be that of a deranged killer, but, rather, of innocent victims whose lives were cut tragically short.


ROWLANDS: And, today, Paula, another very emotional day. A lot of parents were here on campus standing outside, not only at the memorial, but also at the hall where the massacre took place, looking at the place where they lost their sons and their daughters -- Paula.

ZAHN: And what do those parents have to say to you about the fact that he seemed to slip through every single crack in the system?

ROWLANDS: You know, I will tell you what. Everybody that we have talked to that has been very close to this tragedy seems to be in full support of the university, full support of the police, in how this has been handled in the aftermath, most of them saying, this was such an extreme case, they give everybody the benefit of the doubt, that nobody had all of those red flags.

People had some of them, but nobody had all of them. So, for the most part, I haven't heard a lot of anger from any of the parents or those close to this tragedy.

ZAHN: Ted Rowlands, thank you so much for the update.

Now, we also learned this afternoon that Cho Seung-Hui bought one of the pistols for the massacre on the Internet. It's still more proof that his actions were not the result of a snap decision, but the end of a very careful, cold-blooded planning.

We asked Jeanne Meserve to pull together everything we know about how Cho's deadly plot unfolded -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Paula, Cho's roommates say he recently began working out. It may have been part of his preparations for his killing spree, preparations that took place largely beneath the radar.


MESERVE (voice-over): The gunshots came just seconds apart. The rampage was over in a few hours. But the planning, the preparations, appear to have taken month.

DEWEY CORNELL, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: But, for individuals who have severe paranoid disorders, it's actually characteristic for them to have a very elaborate, systematic plan and set of delusional beliefs.

MESERVE: Shortly after Cho Seung-Hui started spring semester, he appears to begun laying groundwork. On February 2, he purchased his first weapon from an Internet gun business in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the owner says. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't even imagine the tragedy. And, of over 100,000 licensed dealers, I mean, what are the chances?

MESERVE: On February 9, Cho picked up that handgun, a Walther P- 22, like this one, from the pawnshop where it was delivered, just across the street from the Virginia Tech campus.

Some time in March, Cho rented a car, a law enforcement source says. It may have been the vehicle in which Cho recorded some of the videos he later sent NBC.

Cho may also have used the car to travel to this gun shop in Roanoke, Virginia, about a half-an-hour from campus. There, he spent $571 to buy a .9-millimeter Glock like this and 50 rounds of ammunition. It was the Glock, officials say, with which Cho did most of his killing.

On March 28, Cho used his MasterCard to rent this room in a Roanoke hotel. He checked out the next day. It is still unclear why he was there.

Just two days later, March 30, Cho got a speeding ticket for driving a red Kia, like this one, at 75 miles per hour in a 55-mile- per-hour zone. He was just blocks from campus.

CORNELL: In the later phases, when somebody is extremely paranoid and psychotic, chances are, they may behave in a reckless matter, a grandiose manner, with disregard for authority.

MESERVE: Indeed, in the days before the shooting, Cho appears to have become more reckless. On April 2, exactly two weeks before the shooting, students got notice of a bomb threat against one of the Virginia Tech buildings. Some investigators believe Cho may have been testing the university's emergency response system.

According to NBC, by April 10, six days before the rampage, Cho had begun preparing the materials he would later send to that network.

On April 13, only three days before the shootings, there was a second bomb threat against buildings in close proximity to Norris Hall. Then, on April 16, the plan went into action, and bullet after bullet brought death and more death.


MESERVE: It is unclear whether there was a particular event or perceived slight which sent that plan into motion, or whether Cho's deteriorating mental state alone was responsible -- Paula.

ZAHN: That's something we're going to try to explore next, Jeanne, with our next guest.

Jeanne Meserve, thanks so much.

Now, we know a lot now about Cho Seung-Hui and how much preparation went into Monday's massacre, as you have just seen in Jeanne's report. But we all want to understand what pushed him over the edge.

Joining me now, Jeffrey Ian Ross, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Baltimore.

Welcome. Good to have you with us tonight, sir.


ZAHN: so, we word Jeanne describing this increasing pattern of recklessness a couple weeks before the massacre.

Do you have any sense at all, from what you have read, what might have made him snap?

ROSS: Well, typically, with similar kinds of shooters, mass murderers, there is some sort of stressful event, there is some sort of loss of status, or there is some sort of relationship that the individual has that went bad.

I'm thinking that perhaps he was a rejected from a class or a program or kicked out of a program or class. Perhaps he was kicked out of a club, an organization, maybe even a fraternity. Some of the violence that he describes in the video seems almost like hazing that he may have experienced or thought he may have experienced or heard about people experiencing.

And, then again, maybe he had a failed relationship or attempts to have some sort of a relationship with a -- with a girl.

ZAHN: Whether or not anybody could ever prove it was rejection that sparked this, we know from Jeanne's piece the -- the -- the methodical detail that went into this plot.

So, how can a young man who is mentally ill still be so focused and disciplined about carrying out this plan?

ROSS: Well, he can tune out other things that may come in the way of his ultimate play. He's very, very focused.

I mean, he clearly had a sense of his posterity. He left what almost seemed to be a suicide note by carefully making that DVD, including those allegedly, supposedly, menacing photographs, and then taking the DVD and sending it to the news media. And that took some planning and some care on his part.

ZAHN: Why don't we listen to some of the chilling words from part of that packet that was sent in to NBC to give our audience a better idea of just how deep his psychosis went?

Let's watch.


CHO: You sadistic snobs, I may be nothing but a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED) You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and tortured my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die, like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.


ZAHN: And he goes on to say that he is inspiring generations of weak and defenseless people.

Why -- what was his motivation for saying that?

ROSS: Well, he has a very high opinion of himself. But he's also drawing allusions from the Bible.

And it's not atypical for people with delusions or somewhat paranoid to draw from religious icons. And that's clearly what he's done. And he sees that he's fighting against an oppressive force, and that he is the voice of reason that will bring some sort of justice for people like himself.

And these kinds of themes, we do see in the Bible and many religions.

ZAHN: Jeffrey Ian Ross, that was very helpful.

ROSS: My pleasure.

ZAHN: We appreciate your joining us tonight.

And, today, for the first time, we're getting a significant amount of information about Cho's family. One of his relatives says he had mental problems even as a boy in South Korea, one of his relatives today calling him an idiot.

Coming up next: Was that really an indication that he would become a killer after those concerns about his mental illness?

Also: Korean-Americans' students struggle to decide whether it's better to stay or leave the Virginia Tech campus, out of fear of potential reprisals.

And then a little bit later on: tonight's surprising verdict in another killing that shocked the nation, in this case, a preacher's wife.



MARK MCNAMEE, VIRGINIA TECH PROVOST: We have recommended it, and the president has approved, a decision to award all students who were killed on Monday posthumous degrees from Virginia Tech for the degree they were pursuing.

The families are very happy about this. And we are actually going to award those degrees during the regular commencement exercises that the students will be participating -- would have participated in with their friends.


ZAHN: And we continue to learn more about the causes of the shattering violence this week at Virginia Tech. The roots of the problem may stretch all the way back to Cho Seung-Hui's early childhood in South Korea.

We hear tonight, through the South Korean Embassy, that Cho's family is in the U.S. and that it is doing OK. Other than that, the family here in the states isn't talking to anyone.

But Matthew Chance reports that Cho's relatives in South Korea are talking about a very difficult child with a long history of serious problems.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): They're grieving the Virginia Tech massacre here with sorrow and with regret.

Even though Cho Seung-Hui left his native South Korea as an 8- year-old boy, at this church memorial service in the capital, Seoul, grief is tinged with shame.

"As a Korean, I feel sorry that a Korean youth caused this shocking incident," says the cardinal.

That sense of guilt has bred a fascination, too, and a search for any detail, no matter how small, about the killer's Korean past -- this, the school Cho attended as a child, a document recording his departure for the U.S., and, of course, the home in the South Korean capital where he grew up.

(on camera): Well, this is the dingy basement apartment in a poor area of Seoul where Cho Seung-Hui lived with his parents and his sister until he was 8 years old. There's not much to it. It's been cleared out now. Nobody lives here. There's one room there and just one more over here.

Cho's parents decided to take the family to the United States for a better life.

(voice-over): But there were family members who chose to stay in South Korea.

KIM YANG-SOON, GREAT AUNT OF CHO SEUNG-HUI (through translator): My brother came in at about 3:00 in the morning, saying something big has happened. My daughter's son has shot some people.

CHANCE: This is Kim Yang-Soon, Cho's 85-year-old great aunt, his grandfather's sister. She says the family knew very well, the young Cho was suffering with some kind of mental illness, even before they had left for the United States.

KIM YANG-SOON (through translator): In Korea, he was very quiet. From the beginning, he wouldn't answer me. Cho doesn't talk. Normally, sons and mothers talk. There was none of that for them. He was very cold.

CHANCE: It's now known Cho did, in fact, suffer from psychological problems. His great aunt says Cho's disturbed state of mind drove his mother and family to despair.

KIM YANG-SOON (through translator): Every time I called and asked how he was, she would say she was worried about him. She said she couldn't deal with him. She didn't what to do. Cho's father and grandfather worried about that. Who would have known he would cause such trouble? The idiot.

CHANCE: Lingering questions, both here and in Virginia, that we may never be able to answer.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Seoul.


ZAHN: And, even before today's news that Cho had problems as a child, and serious ones, at that, we had been told there were plenty of red flags about his behavior in college. Coming up next: Why didn't the mental health experts see trouble coming? And why was he left untracked for almost 18 months?

And a little bit later on: the mood on campus today. What are Virginia Tech students saying about Cho's final hate-filled words and pictures?

We will have their thoughts when we come back.


ZAHN: Tonight, in hindsight, it seems glaringly obvious that Cho Seung-Hui was severely disturbed and dangerous. Fellow students, teachers, police, and mental health experts all saw the signs. So, why did mental health professionals let Cho out of their hands?

We asked medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to look for some of those answers.

And she joins me now with the latest information -- Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Paula, this gets very tricky. Doctors I talked to today said that, unless a patient has a history of violence or directly tells you that he's thinking about doing something violent, it can be very hard to tell if he's going to be a threat.


COHEN (voice-over): Cho Seung-Hui was no stranger to mental health professionals. In fact, about a year-and-a-half ago, he was evaluated at a mental health facility. So, why didn't anybody figure out that he was capable of such horrific carnage?

JOHN T. MONAHAN, PSYCHOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, studies have shown for a long time that psychiatrists and psychologists are not very good at predicting violence in the future. They're better than chance, but they're not much better than chance.

COHEN: Dr. John Monahan studies mental illness and violence. He says several things can help a doctor figure out if someone is going to turn violent: Have they been violent before? Were they abused as children? But, really, doctors don't have a whole lot to go on.

MONAHAN: In some ways, predicting harmful behavior is like predicting harmful weather. If an inaccurate prediction is made, that doesn't necessarily mean that anybody has missed anything.

COHEN: Which may explain why Cho Seung-Hui was released into the general population after his evaluation at the clinic.

Melanie Adkins knows firsthand how difficult predicting behavior can be. A mental health counselor, police often ask her to evaluate whether someone is a threat to themselves or others. Her office is across the street from Virginia Tech, and she's often called upon to evaluate students, though she wouldn't say whether she ever evaluated Cho.

(on camera): There's no real test that you can do to see if someone is going to be violent in the future?

MELANIE ADKINS, MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR: Absolutely not. There's absolutely not a test that will give us a yes-or-no answer.

COHEN (voice-over): When evaluating students, Adkins asks about past history, whether someone has support from family and friends, if they abuse drugs or alcohol. But in the end:

ADKINS: It sometimes seems like folks think we have a crystal ball, and that we can really look into the future and see what will happen with a particular individual. But it's not an exact science, and we're just not that good at predicting long-term risk of violence.

COHEN: Mental health isn't like heart health, she says. Cardiologists can look into your heart and see if it's sick. The human brain, it turns out, is much more complex.


COHEN: The doctors I talked to said it's important to remember that Cho saw mental health professionals nearly a year-and-a-half ago. And it's very possible that he was much healthier then and didn't appear to be as disturbed as he clearly was on Monday -- Paula.

ZAHN: Could those people at the hospital had committed him at that point?

COHEN: It is very, very difficult to legally commit someone. And that's something that a judge does. You have to show that the person is an imminent threat to themselves or to others. You need very, very substantial evidence that they're a threat. For example, they have to say -- they might have to say something like, I want to kill my wife, or something very specific. For example, those crazy writings that Cho did in his creative writing class that were so disturbing and so violent, that wouldn't be enough.

ZAHN: And we're going to talk more about that in our next says -- segment, that is.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

Let's turn to two mental health professionals, Dr. Neil Kaye, a forensic psychiatrist, and Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at New York's Presbyterian Hospital, author of "Anatomy of a Secret Life."

Welcome to both of you.

Dr. Kaye, I want to start with you tonight and play a very small section of that videotape that was sent to NBC News by Cho.



CHO: Do you think I ever dreamed of dying like this in a million years? I didn't want to do this.

I did it for them. I did it to make you stop what you did to me, so, futures generations of the weak and the defenseless...

Like Moses, I split the sea and lead my people, the weak, the defenseless, and the innocent children of all ages.


ZAHN: Dr. Kaye, I know you can't diagnose someone that you have never examined before, but, based on what you have just heard, what does it indicate? What was wrong with him?

KAYE: Well, I think what you're seeing in the manifesto, as it's been described, is confusion of the thought processes themselves.

There's a rambling nature to their presentation. Ideas are not well-connected. And this suggests the presence of a psychotic thought process itself. And with -- coupled with the other material that we have, there's really a serious suggestion that, at least at the present time, that he was in a psychotic or delusional state.

ZAHN: Is that a state that someone would have seen before, or could this just have been sparked in the days leading up to the rampage, the massacre?

KAYE: It probably was smoldering for a number of weeks, meaning not really fully seen, and then sort of came completely to life.

It is unlikely that, a year-and-a-half ago, when he was evaluated at Carilion St. Albans, that this would have been seen. Had he been that out of touch with reality, his thought processes that disconnected, that would have been noticed, and he would have been held, I would -- I believe, for a longer period of time.

So, this is probably something that developed fairly recently, but was not necessarily seen. Of course, he was not in touch with and had not been evaluated by any mental health officials in the weeks leading up to this tragedy.

ZAHN: But the one thing that we're hearing over and over today is, everybody knew this kid was in trouble for a long, long time.


ZAHN: We heard from his South Korean relatives, who are saying they knew as a child...


ZAHN: ... that -- that he was ill.


ZAHN: We know he was a loner. We know he had contempt for people.

How many people in our universe share those characteristics?

SALTZ: Well, unfortunately, more than you would think.

I mean, you know, threads of paranoia, some social isolation, that can occur with many different kinds of issues going on, with depression, with anxiety disorders.

But the long-term of this and the fact that, in addition to the fact that he sounds so thought-disordered, there was -- there were these paranoid delusions and this grandiosity.

I think that's what we hear a lot of in the tape, references to: "Like Moses, I will part the seas. I will do this for the generations."

ZAHN: Like Jesus.

SALTZ: Exactly, all these biblical references.

Those really are grandiose delusions and make you think that, not only is this a psychotic process, but, at the length of it, you would wonder about some schizophreniform type of disorder.

ZAHN: Dr. Kaye, I think that the thing that is so disturbing to anybody reading about this guy or hearing about this guy is that his roommates basically said he was a guy that barely talked at all or grunted. You know, every now and then, they would get a grunt as a reaction. And they're saying, you know, they're -- there are other people out there that seem to behave just like that. How do you know the guy sitting across from you at some diner isn't going to do the same thing?

KAYE: Well, the fact is, you don't. And there's a reality that this is a very rare occurrence, which is a good thing, but it also means that predicting rare behavior is essentially impossible.

And so there are a lot of people who have these schizoid, aloof kind of character, but never act on anything. Many people have violent thoughts or fantasies. Writers, Hollywood movie directors, come up with these ideas but never do anything. They don't act on them.

And so there was in this man's mind sort of the perfect storm. The probable schizophrenic-like disorder beginning early in childhood coupled with feelings of rejection, shame, powerlessness, and then deciding that he's going to take to out.

Although the references seem somewhat grandiose, I also think there's a definitely religiosity to them and religiosity in this way is something that we see in schizophrenia quite often.

ZAHN: And Dr. Saltz, a final word.

SALTZ: I would like to say that while you can't predict, people could be more educated. If there was less shame surrounding mental illness, then people would understand more what's going on and have a better shot of recognizing and potentially helping an individual even like this who could have been treated.

ZAHN: We've got 10 seconds left, but what faith can people have if this is a kid that shows red flag after red flag and he was still a student on campus?

SALTZ: Because a school would feel more comfortable saying, wow, we have a really identifiable and risky illness here. We can't have you as a part of the community unless you agree to treatment.

ZAHN: Dr. Gail Saltz, Dr. Neal Kaye, thank you. Appreciate you dropping by.

SALTZ: Thank you.

ZAHN: A significant part of this story is what's happening right now on the Virginia Tech campus. Coming up next, how are the students coping? And what are they thinking about seeing Cho Seung-Hui's final words and pictures all over the news?

And while I was on campus, I had a chance to talk with students from the Korean American community. Who's more worried, the kids or their parents?

We'll also get a live update on this evening's surprising verdict in the case of the preacher's wife who admitted to killing her husband.

We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Cho Seung-Hui's chilling message from the grave is more than enough to scare anyone. He seemed to be trying to talk to all of us. But what about those closest to the massacre at Virginia Tech? Carol Costello has been talking with students, including one who roomed next door to Cho. Carol joins us now with some of those details. What did you learn?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, those who knew Cho when they saw the videotape on NBC News, they said who is that? The video tape version of Cho was just so very different than the person they knew who lived in their suite. As for the students that didn't know Cho, they were angry. Not at NBC for showing the tape, but angry that Cho in part blamed them for the massacre.


KARAN GREWAL, CHO'S SUITEMATE: Yeah. I think it's the last window over there. Yeah. The second floor.

COSTELLO (on camera): Karan Grewal lived with Cho Seung-Hui. He knew him as shy, a guy who never talked about guns or watched violent videos. Quiet, introverted, meek.

GREWAL: It just seemed he was putting on an act for us to see here in the dorms so he wouldn't suspect anything.

COSTELLO: Grewal and his friends are stunned at what Cho revealed in the pictures, video and rambling notes he sent to NBC News. They wonder if he hid the guns in their dorm just a few feet from where they slept at night, planned the brutal Virginia Tech killings while they were studying next door.

GREWAL: It's scary to think he was planning this in there. I saw the videos, possibly shot in our suite.

COSTELLO: The release of Cho's trove of hate-filled pictures was enough to send students who lived in this quad packing. After days of grieving, they'd had enough.

MICHAEL BRITTON, VA. TECH STUDENT: Like made me have anger in my heart. Like and I didn't want that.

JESSICA OAKLEY, VA. TECH STUDENT: It felt like a personal attack on all of us. Just him specifying kids with Mercedes and kids with gold chains. It was just really judgmental and I thought that was really harsh. Just because we're not all the same.

COSTELLO: These students and about 12 of their fans are planning to get away from it all at a house on a lake. Some are going home to parents. Others are waiting to here about funerals and sorting out how to deal with their latest insight into Cho. LEIGH HILL, VA. TECH STUDENT: Just a heavy weight of just suffering and pain.

COSTELLO: In these days of deep mourning, of memorials on the green, of victims' relatives coming to the scene of this terrible tragedy, people here wish Cho's pictures and videos had not been made public.

KEN STANTON, VA. TECH STUDENT: When the video was released, there was nothing but extra pain.

TAURIV BANSAL, VA. TECH STUDENT: To show clips of the -- the killer himself, that's -- that's what he wanted and that's really giving him his -- his goals. Allowing him to reach his goals. And it's just bringing pain to people.

COSTELLO: Tauriv Bansal lost six friends. He says he doesn't need or want to understand Cho. In fact, he never wants to see another image of Cho ever again.


COSTELLO: The saddest thing, Paula, a lot of parents who lost children in Norris Hall were on campus today and they were asking administrators when they could get inside Norris so that they could gather some of their loved ones belongings that they left behind.

ZAHN: That is so, so terrible. Carol Costello, thanks.

What are Korean American students feeling right now? When I was on campus, I had a chance to ask some of them if they are afraid of any kind of backlash.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want that fear, that sort of fear to -- to influence us in such a way where we would run away and hide.


ZAHN: Coming up, students struggle with a question of whether it's better to leave campus for a while or whether it is safe to stay as Korean-Americans.

And a little bit later on tonight, surprising verdict in the trial of a preacher's wife who was accused of murdering her husband.


ZAHN: And as Matthew Chance reported a little bit earlier tonight, many South Koreans consider the massacre to be a national disgrace. They are shocked and ashamed because the gunman, Cho Seung- Hui, was born there. And today, a South Korean diplomat told CNN that the Korean community is extremely worried about a possible backlash right here in the U.S. It's very much on the minds of Korean Americans on the Virginia Tech campus. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): An emotional reunion between a Virginia Tech student and her mother. But under the relief, there's also fear. This Korean American mom drove seven hours to Virginia Tech to be with her daughter. Other students of Korean origin have packed up and are leaving the school, worried they might become targets for reprisals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My friend calls me and says that it's a Korean man. And right after my mom called me, she's like, Joanne (ph), it's a Korean man. You better come home, you know?

ZAHN: It started the day after the shootings. As soon as authorities identified South Korea native Cho Seung-Hui as the gunman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of parents are actually going crazy. Embassies calling. Telling parents to warn their children that staying on campus or Tech, to be careful.

ZAHN: Not all of the Korean-Americans I spoke with in the past few days are afraid to stay at Virginia Tech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's for us to run away.

ZAHN: Other students are torn. But say they haven't felt any backlash or condemnation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Outwardly people aren't doing it, you know? They don't -- you know, they don't say anything to me. Oh, you're Korean, too. You know, did you know him or, you know? Are you like him? Nothing like that at all.

ZAHN: But other students are taking no chances. At least for now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not nervous. It's just that my parents are making me more nervous. But that's how parents are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My ride is there. So I should go.


ZAHN: Korean Americans all across the country are still reacting with stunned shock and grief to the shootings in Virginia and some are very much afraid of that anti-Asian backlash we just talked about.

Joining me now, journalist Andrew Lam, a Vietnamese American. And Po Sheen, a Chinese American student at Virginia Tech. Welcome to you both.

Po, have you and your Asian friends felt any sense of fear that you might be mistaken for a South Korean and might be harmed in some way because what Cho did?


PO SHEEN, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Well, there hasn't ...

ZAHN: Go ahead, Po.

SHEEN: ... been any direct evidence or anything that's happened to us. I believe and everybody around me is really afraid that there is going to be some sort of backlash, especially my parents. And on campus, there's a lot of e-mails from our perspective organizations, Asian organizations. They sent out-mails to us, warning us to be careful. Don't walk at night alone. Always be with someone and don't stay out too late. That's the only thing I'm really afraid of.

ZAHN: Andrew, I know that you've written that all Asian Americans were praying that it would be a different Asian group, not their own group, that in some way was involved in this massacre. What is their concern? What are they afraid of?

LAM: Well, right after the shooting, there was only one designation, and that was Asian. Everybody called me, Chinese, Korean, Pakistani, and they were all saying the same thing. Please, please, let it not be one of us.

And I thought it was interesting because here was only one way to look at this person and it was Asian and we all felt as if we were on pins and needles. I think because there is a sense of collective guilt and shame that comes along with collective pride.

When one of us make it into NASA or go into Harvard, the whole community feels really proud. And one of us who creates -- or acts an evil act, I think that we can't help but feel a sense of collective shame and guilt as well.

ZAHN: Let's talk about the collective pride for a moment, Po. I am going to read you something that came out of the "Washington Post." It reads, "Along with profound grief if for the victims and concern for Cho's family, many expressed fear that his actions would tar the entire Korean American community which has long been associated with such values such as hard work, education, and family unity."

So do you think that Korean Americans are feeling an even stronger sense of responsibility and that sense of collective grief and shame because of their core values?

SHEEN: I believe so. Because my friends, they've all gone home. And I've talked to one of my friends and he was just really embarrassed to talk about this event. I mean, it seems like all my friends, all my Korean friends, they're really united, you know, in what they do. And when something like this has happened, I mean, it's just -- it's very embarrassing. I mean, it's not just on the Koreans, but I think on everybody as a general.

ZAHN: But Andrew, you were making such an interesting point about how raw emotions being felt all over the world by Asians in this collective sense of grief and shame. Why that unified feeling of emotion?

LAM: Well, I think we come from a very tight-knit communities, a lot of us. And it just cannot be helped. And also I think for a minority in America, you know, an act of an individual can really reverberate in terms of how it is perceived for the rest of that community.

When Timothy McVeigh committed the heinous crime that he did, I don't think white America would say we feel responsible for his acts. But unfortunately to be a minority even in the 21st century in America is still sort of being test drived (ph) and so a lot of us make effort to prove ourselves to be good citizens and when something like this happens, people really collectively feel a sense of responsibility even though it's clearly the case where this guy is suffering from mental illness.

ZAHN: We appreciate your honesty about how deep these feelings go. Andrew Lam, Po Sheen, thank you both for your time tonight.

LAM: Thank you.

ZAHN: Coming up next, we're going to turn to tonight's breaking news. A killing that captured the nation's attention, especially after a preacher's wife testified on trial for killing her husband testified about what he was really like behind closed doors.


MARY WINKLER, ACCUSED OF MURDER: He hit me with a shotgun many times. Put it in my face. Shoving it towards me. He told me if I ever talked back to him, the way one of my sister-in-laws talked back to his brother that he'd cut me into a million pieces.


ZAHN: Coming up, what did the jury decide? Was it murder? Stay with us. We'll have the verdict.


ZAHN: There is breaking news tonight on a shocking murder trial and a stunning verdict. Mary Winkler, the wife of a Tennessee preacher, admitted she killed him with a shotgun last year, but she said it was an accident and she accused him of abuse. Over a long period of time. And barely two hours ago, the jury came back with a verdict but on the much less serious charge of voluntary manslaughter, not the first degree murder the prosecution had asked for.

She stays free on bond until sentencing sometime next month. Let's turn to Susan Candiotti who has more on this astonishing verdict. How surprised were folks watching this come down?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very surprised, Paula. A crime of passion, not a cold-blooded murder. That was the verdict that came after only eight hours. A jury of 10 women and two men coming down with this decision. Clearly making a connection with this minister's wife after she had testified that after years of abuse, she snapped. And this is what happened when the judge read the verdict.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the jury, find the defendant, Mary C. Winkler, guilty of voluntary manslaughter.


CANDIOTTI: The reaction from Mary Winkler, absolutely nothing. A blank stare and she stayed that way for several minutes, Paula, until her father, her brothers and sisters later came and comforted her. Then she seemed to relax a little bit. Paula?

ZAHN: Susan, for folks that haven't been following this trial very carefully, her testimony was pivotal. Describe to us some of the things she said that convinced this jury that she had been a victim of abuse, that she'd in some way been preyed upon.

CANDIOTTI: That's right. Some people were surprised by the outcome. Some weren't. But some of the things that Mary Winkler testified to were years of physical abuse, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse. She testified that her husband, for example, had punched her. Had kicked her.

She even said that at certain points he sexually humiliated here. And in fact, there was a point where she brought out a wig and a pair of high-heeled shoes that she says he made her put on. She clearly looked uncomfortable.

And that he also made her look at pornographic photographs on her computer. This, the attorney said, was Mary being Mary, explaining her side and it turned the tide, including this bit of testimony.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember ever having the gun, holding a gun?

WINKLER: Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember ever pointing a gun?

WINKLER: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember ever pulling a trigger?

WINKLER: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you pull the trigger?

WINKLER: No, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do we know that, ma'am?

WINKLER: Because I'm telling you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CANDIOTTI: So clearly the jury made a connection with Mary Winkler here, even though the state did get her to say that here husband bid not deserve to die. Paula?

ZAHN: And I guess she could face up to three to six years in prison once the sentencing is final. Susan Candiotti, thanks so much.

Coming up that top of the hour on LARRY KING LIVE, Larry talks with former President Bill Clinton. His first interview since his wife announced her run for the White House. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: And that wraps it up for us tonight. Tomorrow night, my exclusive interview with one of the Virginia Tech survivors. Emily Haas says she's alive because of the heroism of her teacher. Ten of Emily's 21 classmates died. Her story of terror and survival tomorrow night.

Thanks again for joining us tonight. We'll be back at the same time, same place tomorrow night.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines