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Professor: Gunman's motivation was slow to build

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QUARRYVILLE, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- The man who killed five schoolgirls and himself Monday at an Amish schoolhouse told his wife shortly before the attack that he had molested two young relatives when he was 12 and was dreaming of molesting again, Pennsylvania state police told reporters Tuesday.

Charles Carl Roberts IV left behind several suicide notes, including one that said he was mad at God for the 1997 death of his premature baby, police said.

Dr. N.G. Berrill, professor of Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, spoke to CNN's Heidi Collins about the possible motivation for Roberts' attack.

COLLINS: Dr. Berrill, first of all, were you able to hear part of or all of this news conference on behalf of the commissioner?

BERRILL: Yes, I was able to hear at least part of it.

COLLINS: First of all, what stood out to you, what did you pay attention to, as somebody who specializes in forensic psychology, as we learned more about this shooter and this suicide letter?

BERRILL: Well, what you hear is that the shooter was clearly a tortured individual. I mean, he'd been carrying around countless years. It sounds like a mixture of guilt and remorse: guilt for his own actions, remorse, grief over the loss of his own infant daughter, and perhaps in his own confused mind, not able to reconcile any of these powerful feelings, or feelings of guilt at least.

Clearly, over time, he's -- I guess eroded his reality testing. His capacity to put the brakes on seems obviously to have eroded, culminating in a very, very peculiar act, one that really doesn't seem sensical, but from a twisted person's perspective, perhaps -- perhaps lashing out at these kids as a way of objectifying, if you will, the guilt that he has about his own behavior and if, perhaps, he couldn't have his infant daughter, then these other families couldn't have their infant daughters, their young girls. You know, these seem to be the threads of the motivation and I don't think it's fair or realistic to ask for this to make any sense.

COLLINS: So obviously it is hard to make sense of something like this, because you or me or anybody else that has been watching this story would sit back and think, How could somebody do something like this?

Let me ask you that, let me kind of go into the psychology part of this with you, maybe, on a different level. You talk about that he was probably a tortured individual, felt a lot of guilt, felt remorse, that it sort of eroded his reality. Let me ask you about that then.

Is this somebody that had a mental illness that he just did not know how to deal with, didn't realize that he had, and he should have been someone that should have just been locked away from the beginning? Or are you saying, if this is somebody who could have recognized and confronted that guilt, and that sort of tortured soul or those demons he was battling, and received therapy and admitted that he was having these thoughts, is this somebody that could have been helped?

BERRILL: Yes, my guess is -- this is the rub, when you get, you know, these catastrophic events, you know, the idea of molesting young girls is a horrible one, and living with the reality that one is -- you know, has engaged in that kind of activity, particularly someone who might be actively involved in a church, you are talking about all kinds of conflicting values and tucking stuff away and compartmentalizing, hiding even from one's self the truth of one's impulses.

So yes, if by some miracle someone had alerted authorities or talked to his minister -- if he had the courage to have stepped forward years ago and sought some help, perhaps even discretely. Obviously one would think that a catastrophic event like this could have been averted. I mean, but -- but because of the obvious embarrassment, the guilt, et cetera, this fellow was able to -- maybe not so artfully, but nonetheless effectively for many years hide the reality of his -- let's say pedophilic impulses, overwhelming guilt.

And as I said, they probably intertwine in ways that make no real linear sense, but in his twisted mind and reality they make some sense. You don't talk, you don't let people know you're in trouble, then at the end of the line you get this kind of bizarre, seemingly coming out of nowhere.

But this didn't come out of nowhere. This was slow to build and it's taken years and layers of life's experience and as I said, internal pain, subjected to stress, self-loathing, to come to this place.


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