Just When You Think You Know Someone...

The Laurie Dann (Wasserman) I remember was sensitive, friendly, and fun. More importantly to a high school junior, she was extremelyattractive!

Now back at New Trier High School, an attractive girl would usually intimidate the “you-know-what” out of me. That’s because I was a bit of a nerd and not exactly a heart-throb to women (as you can see, some things haven’t changed). But oddly, I wasn’t intimidated with Laurie. You see, most attractive women in high school were equally as popular, especially with the boys; but not so for Laurie. She was very shy and didn’t seem to have any friends at all.

I recall thinking to myself, “Hmm, maybe I have a shot here after all.” I know, pretty sad, isn’t it? Nevertheless, I did end up befriending Laurie and we began hanging out together for the remainder of junior year. We even went to Prom together (the one photo of us that I do have).

My last memory of Laurie was ironically on the last day of school when she revealed to me that she had some Coors Beer out in her car and asked if I wanted to drink it with her. Although I wasn’t the “ditch class” type of guy, how could I turn down such an offer? I mean really…a pretty girl…Coors beer…the last day of school…you get the idea. Plus, I really did like her!

But as life moves on, so too did my brief romance with Laurie.  In fact, later that summer my family ended up moving to Colorado and I never saw or heard from her again…that is until that awful day on May 20th, 1988!

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I kept getting phone calls from high school buddies screaming to me on the phone, “Turn on your TV! Your ex-girlfriend went on a shooting spree at the local elementary school and has now taken a family hostage! Quick, it’s happing right now!”

I immediately turned on the TV, still in a state of shock. The coverage was indeed live, as helicopters filmed a house in the North Shore where Laurie escaped to and was now holding a family hostage. During the following five-hour stand-off, the media went through the day’s events, one by one.

  • First, Laurie delivered poisonous drinks and cookies to numerous people (from babysitting clients, to fraternities, to ex-family members and to past boyfriends) around town.
  • Second, she unsuccessfully attempted to set a day care school on fire.
  • Third, she set a house on fire (another babysitting client) with the mother and kids still in it.
  • Fourth, armed with three loaded revolvers, Laurie entered an elementary school and started shooting randomly at the kids (killing one, injuring 5 others).
  • Fifth, after crashing her car while escaping, Laurie ran to a nearby house and broke in, shooting one of the family members as he escaped out the door. The rest of the family was held hostage.

This was about the time I tuned in. As you might imagine, watching the rest of this play out live was a very surreal experience for me. I found myself becoming obsessed with the story and the stunning events that were taking place right in front of my eyes.

Another couple of hours passed before a loud shot was heard from inside the house. Suddenly everything was quiet…so quiet in fact that the Swat team decided it was time to break into the house and put an end to things.

And then silence again. Only this silence was an eerie silence. And then the news…Laurie Dan has shot herself in the head. The stand-off was finally over!

Laurie…just before the killings

I remember feeling an incredible sadness come over me at that moment. And then I felt guilty for feeling sad.  After all, how could I feel anything but disdain for this psycho killer who attempted to take down over 50 people? Here was a woman who burned, poisoned, and shot people, for crying out loud (as my dad would say)!  This woman regularly made death threats by phone to anyone whom she disliked. In short, she single-handedly destroyed the innocence of a small town and scared it forever! And yet, the sadness was still there in my heart.

In hindsight, the Laurie I mourned for on that dark day was not the same Laurie that went on the killing spree. These were two different women in my mind. In fact, it wasn’t until I read Joyce Egginton’s book (Too Beautiful A Day To Die) about Laurie that I began to understand what transpired with her during those 12-years since I had last seen her. I must admit, Joyce’s book helped explain the metamorphous Laurie went through from a once slightly odd girl in high school to a psychotic killer at 30.

Needless to say, there’s a lot more to the story of Laurie Dann…and I intend to bring it to you. On Monday’s show (Sept. 12, 3-4pm MST www.greggiesen.com/talkradio.html), Joyce Egginton will be joining me to talk about Laurie Dann and the events that led up to the school shooting on May 20th, 1988. And, if that’s not enough, master psychic and medium, Karen Storsteen, will join us as well to talk about what happens to bad people when they die and what happened when she tried to connect with Laurie in the afterlife. You got to hear this!