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Girlfriend says NIU gunman called her to say goodbye
By Joseph Ryan and Lee Filas | Daily Herald Staff

A lone mourner at Northern Illinois University places flowers at a memorial for the five victims of the Valentines Day shooting on the campus of NIU in DeKalb.

 

Associated Press

"He wasn't erratic. He wasn't delusional. He was Steve; he was normal. He was just quicker to get annoyed," Steven Kazmierczak's girlfriend, Jessica Baty of Wonder Lake, told CNN.

 

Associated Press

Steven Kazmierczak

 

This undated photo released by tattoo artist Jason Dunavan shows the right arm of NIU shooter Steven Kazmierczak with the a tattoo of a character from the movie "The Saw." It is one of three tattoos Kazmierczak got in the last five to six months.

 

Associated Press

A tattoo of a skull with a dagger on the left arm of NIU shooter Steven Kazmierczak.

 

Associated Press

A tattoo on the left arm of NIU shooter Steven Kazmierczak.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 2/17/2008 6:26 PM | Updated: 2/18/2008 12:04 AM

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The night before he shot five students to death and wounded 16 others, the Northern Illinois University gunman called his girlfriend to tell her not to forget about him.

Jessica Baty of Wonder Lake says she had no idea what her boyfriend was about to do -- or why he did it.

"The person I knew was not the one who went into Cole Hall and did that," a sobbing Baty told CNN from her home Sunday. "He was anything but a monster. He was probably the … nicest, (most) caring person ever."

Baty's view of the gunman and account of their interaction last week offers another look at his puzzling actions in the months and days leading up to the massacre -- events that paint the picture of an apparently disturbed man who still managed to seem normal to those around him.

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Investigators released few new details in the case Sunday as they continue to search for a motive. They say no one in the large Ocean Science class knew Steven Kazmierczak before he opened fire on them and then killed himself.

Baty said she received two packages from her boyfriend either the day of the shootings or the next day. The two had dated on and off for two years and were living together in Champaign.

One package contained two textbooks, a new cell phone and a goodbye note. The other package contained a gun holster and ammunition. Baty said she didn't understand why he would send her those items.

The note read, "You are the best Jessica! You've done so much for me, and I truly do love you. You will make an excellent psychologist or social worker someday! Don't forget about me! Love, Steven Kazmierczak."

One of the textbooks was a copy of Friedrich Nietzsche's "The Antichrist." Police confiscated it along with the shooter's copy of the "Encyclopedia of Serial Killers."

Baty, 28, declined to talk to the press after granting an interview to CNN. A note posted on her front door read: "Our thoughts, prayers and hearts go out to ALL the victims of the NIU incident. Please respect our privacy, as we mourn this tragic loss of so many lives."

Baty and her 27-year-old boyfriend met while both were undergraduates at NIU. The two studied criminal justice and sociology and led the university's American Criminal Justice Association.

They were living together in an apartment while attending the graduate school of social work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The gunman transferred into the program from NIU's graduate sociology program in summer 2007.

Baty said her boyfriend, who has a history of mental problems, recently was seeing a psychiatrist on a monthly basis. She said he stopped taking prescribed antidepressants about three weeks ago "because it made him feel like a zombie."

Baty said she didn't think her boyfriend was unstable. The two talked on the phone every night before the killings, she said.

"I would have helped him; I would have done something for him," Baty told CNN. "(He) told me that he loved me and that he would see me on Thursday and missed me. That whole week I talked to him; he sounded fine."

But Baty said she found it odd her boyfriend said "goodbye" to her on the phone just after midnight on Valentine's Day. She said he never used that term before. She also said he said, "not to forget about him."

Investigators say the gunman started acting "erratically" after going off the medication, an assessment Baty disagrees with.

Yet, signs of trouble appear to have started before that.

In October, the gunman inexplicably stopped showing up for training as a corrections officer in Indiana -- a job teachers say he was excited about and had just started a few weeks earlier. He long had interests in prisons and social justice.

Around the same time, the shooter started covering his body in tattoos: a pentagram, a flaming sword sticking into the top of a skull and a sinister doll riding a tricycle through a pool of blood, The Associated Press reported. The gunman also began stockpiling weapons. He bought a 12-gauge shotgun and Glock 9 mm handgun just a few days before the shooting. He had two other handguns on him during the shootings.

Baty said her boyfriend told her two of his guns were for home protection. She said she didn't know about the others.

Baty said her boyfriend didn't appear to have mental health issues.

"He wasn't erratic. He wasn't delusional. He was Steve; he was normal," she told CNN, adding later, "He was just quicker to get annoyed."

Baty was aware her boyfriend was committed by his parents to a group home after graduating Elk Grove High School in 1998. He told her he would cut himself and act "unruly."

Baty said her boyfriend told her he had "obsessive-compulsive tendencies."

"He was worried about everything; he worried about me," she said.

The former manager of the group home said, "He never wanted to be identified with being mentally ill."

"That was part of the problem," Louise Gbadamashi said.

Some high school acquaintances have said the gunman was an odd and quiet teen -- sometimes prone to outbursts.

Yet, the gunman also had another side. He impressed teachers with good grades and participation both in an out of class. Acquaintances in college labeled him an easy-going, likable man.

Baty said her boyfriend never missed a class and wanted to attend law school.

"He was always ahead," she said.

In 2006 -- the same year his 58-year-old mother died from Lou Gehrig's Disease --

the shooter earned the prestigious Dean's Award while attending NIU's small sociology graduate program.

On the Tuesday before the shootings, the gunman seemed normal while talking to his godfather on the phone. The two recently became reacquainted at the shooter's initiation.

"He seemed fine, great," said Richard Grafer of Des Plaines. "We were laughing and talking and telling jokes,"

Baty said her boyfriend said he would be with Grafer on Valentine's Day. Grafer said the two had talked Tuesday about getting together at some point in the future to play chess -- a favorite game for the gunman -- and that they would talk again Saturday.

But the shooter stayed in a DeKalb hotel for the three days before he dressed in all black and went to Cole Hall carrying three handguns and hiding a shotgun in a guitar case.

Authorities found the hotel room littered with empty cigarette cartons, energy drinks and cold medicine. They also discovered his laptop.

The shooter's close family members still remained unavailable for comment Sunday.

After the shooting, numerous reports indicated Baty and the gunman had split up, but Baty referred to herself as his girlfriend in the CNN interview.

"I didn't think he was crazy," she said. "I still love him."

Meanwhile, at least six of the original 16 surviving victims remained hospitalized as of late Sunday. Some were showing signs of improvement while others continued to struggle with serious injuries.

Sherman Yau, 20, of Naperville was upgraded from serious to fair condition at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove after suffering a single gunshot wound to the right chest, a spokesman said.

Also at Good Samaritan, Maria Ruiz Santa, 19, of Elgin was upgraded Saturday from critical to serious condition with gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest.

Unnum Rahman, 19, of Plainfield was transferred from Good Samaritan to an unnamed facility in fair condition Saturday. It remained unknown if she was still hospitalized, a spokesman said. She had surgery on her right eye at Good Samaritan and was treated for multiple gunshot wounds to her head, neck and right arm.

At Rockford's St. Anthony Medical Center, a female victim remained in severe condition. Another victim was listed in fair condition at Rockford Memorial Hospital, and a victim was in serious condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

A 20-year-old female was listed in fair condition after surgery on her arm at Kishwaukee Community Hospital near NIU.