‘Look­ing Back . . . We Should Have Done Some­thing’

Room­mate Re­counts Po­lice Vis­its, Trou­ble With Women, a Face­less Face­book Im­age

The Washington Post Sunday - - Shooting Rampage At Virginia Tech - By Michael E. Ruane

“Ques­tion Mark” was get­ting to be an ag­gra­va­tion.

The whole thing with the imag­i­nary girl­friend, Jelly, the su­per­model he’d say he was mak­ing out with in his locked room. The weird face­less pic­ture he posted on Face­book that was sup­posed to be him.

The scary lines from Shake­speare he scrawled on a girl’s dorm door. The phone call where he said he was on vacation with Rus­sia’s pres­i­dent, Vladimir Putin. His claim that he lived in room 666 of Cochrane Hall, which has only five floors.

The sun­glasses. The buzz hair­cuts he gave him­self in his room. The calls to his room­mates in which he pre­tended he was some­body named “Ques­tion Mark,” and they all knew it was Se­ung.

Andy Koch was fed up with his room­mate, Se­ung Hui Cho, he re­called yes­ter­day in a tele­phone in­ter­view from Blacks­burg. “Who does this?” Koch said to him­self.

In the four months be­fore the Vir­ginia Tech mass mur­derer was briefly com­mit­ted to a psy­chi­atric clinic in De­cem­ber 2005, his bizarre con­duct un­folded in the usu­ally in­no­cent world of Face­book, lap­tops and dorm-door erase boards.

Amid the so­cial whirl and the all-nighters and the classes, Cho first be­gan to strike peo­ple as not quite right.

Koch, 21, has emerged as among the first to alert school au­thor­i­ties about Cho. Since Cho’s ram­page, he has re­played the events of 2005 over and over, won­der­ing if he might have done more.

“They were lit­tle in­ci­dents that none of them could be added up at any­thing,” he said. “But now look­ing back on it, we should have done some­thing.”

Koch, then a sopho­more man­age­ment ma­jor from Rich­mond, said he and two friends roomed with Cho in fall 2005 in an eight-per­son suite. A friend of Koch’s, John Eide, roomed with Cho.

Koch said Cho was dropped off at the start of school with lit­tle fam­ily fan­fare. “Just a shy and quiet kid,” he said.

Cho first got their at­ten­tion at a frat party that Septem­ber. Stu­dents were stand­ing around, drink­ing beers and catch­ing up.

Cho men­tioned he had an imag­i­nary girl­friend. “He said her name was Jelly and she called him Spanky, and that she was a su­per­model and she trav­eled through space,” Koch said. “We were like, ‘Re­ally?’ ” he said. “I told my par­ents, and I told other friends, and they kind of laughed,” he said. Then one day Koch went to Cho’s room and Cho wouldn’t open the door, say­ing he was with Jelly: “We’re mak­ing out,” Cho said.

Koch said it seemed weird mainly in hind­sight. His first real worry came the Sun­day night cam­pus po­lice ar­rived to speak to Cho about both­er­ing a fe­male class­mate.

Koch said he was asleep when two uni­formed of­fi­cers banged loudly on the suite door. Koch opened and the po­lice asked for Cho.

Cho later told the room­mates that he’d ap­par­ently fright­ened a girl when he went to her room to “look her in the eye.” He said he’d gone there to see if she was cool, and in­stead saw “promis­cu­ity” in her gaze. What she saw in his was enough for her to call po­lice, Koch in­di­cated.

Cho com­mu­ni­cated with class­mates, in part, via his In­ter­net Face­book profile. But in­stead of the usual pho­to­graph peo­ple post, Cho posted an il­lus­tra­tion of a Zor­ro­like fig­ure whose face was blank ex­cept for a large ques­tion mark. Thus was born the “ques­tion mark” per­sona, Koch said.

Cho again be­gan both­er­ing girls. He fright­ened a friend of Koch’s by writ­ing on her door board lines from “Romeo and Ju- liet,” in which Romeo says: “My name, dear saint, is hate­ful to my­self. . . . Had I it writ­ten, I would tear the word.”

Cho was again ad­mon­ished by po­lice. Then Cho e-mailed Koch: “I might as well kill my­self now.” Koch asked if he meant that, and phoned his fa­ther. Koch said both he and his fa­ther voiced con­cern to cam­pus po­lice.

Shortly af­ter that, Cho was taken to the psy­chi­atric clinic. The next se­mes­ter Cho seemed to be­have, and this year Koch lived off cam­pus.

Tues­day morn­ing, when Koch learned that Cho was the killer, he was stunned. “I was freaked for a cou­ple min­utes,” he said, “then I re­al­ized I needed to write ev­ery­thing down.”

BY CHARLES DHARAPAK — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Andy Koch shared a suite with Vir­ginia Tech gun­man Se­ung Hui Cho and oth­ers in 2005. When he heard that Cho had com­mit­ted the mur­ders, Koch re­called oc­ca­sional in­ci­dents that by them­selves had seemed odd but not nec­es­sar­ily threat­en­ing at the time.

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