Laurie Dann bigraphy, stories - American criminal

Laurie Dann : biography

18 October 1957 - 20 May 1988

Laurie Dann (née Wasserman; October 18, 1957 – May 20, 1988) was an American rampage killer who shot and killed one boy and wounded two girls and three boys in a Winnetka, Illinois elementary school. She then took a family hostage and shot another man before killing herself.

Early life

Dann was born into a Jewish family in Chicago and grew up in Glencoe, an affluent northern suburb of Chicago. She was the daughter of an accountant, Norman Wasserman, and his wife, Edith Joy.

Those who knew Dann described her as shy and withdrawn but attractive. She dated a number of her male peers as a teenager and graduated from New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, in 1975. Her grades were poor in high school, but she was able to attend Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. When her grades improved, she transferred to the University of Arizona with the goal of becoming a teacher. She began dating a pre-med student, and the relationship soon became serious, but she was becoming possessive and demanding.

In 1980, with the relationship failing, Dann moved back to her parents' home. She then transferred to Northwestern University to complete her degree, but she dropped out of all her classes and never graduated.

References and notes


All but one of the victims wounded by Dann recovered from their injuries, including the schoolgirl who was shot and suffered severe internal injuries. The victims, school children, and parents received extensive support to help them cope with the psychological after-effects of the attacks.

In the wake of the shootings, parents and members of the community devoted many years to gun control policy. Philip Andrew gave interviews about gun control from his hospital bed, and later became active in local and state gun control organizations as the executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence; he subsequently became a lawyer and then an FBI agent.

The Dann shootings also fueled the debate about criteria for committing mentally ill people to mental health facilities against their will. Some favored the involuntary commitment of a person who is determined to be mentally ill and incapable of making informed decisions about treatment; civil libertarians like Benjamin Wolf (staff counsel for the ACLU of Illinois.) opposed the idea saying, "It would be a shame if we cut back on the civil liberties of literally millions of mentally ill people because of the occasional bizarre incident."

Search for a rationale

Some blamed Dann's family for defending and protecting her in spite of the signs of her deteriorating mental health. Investigations were hampered by the Wassermans' refusal to be interviewed by police or to provide access to Dann's psychiatric records - the records were eventually obtained by court order. On the night of Dann's death, the Wassermans allowed only a very brief search of her bedroom, after which they cleaned it and removed potential evidence. The police were criticized for not sealing off Dann's room as part of the crime scene. Parents of the shooting victims subsequently sued the Wasserman family for damages.

Further criticism was directed at Dann's psychiatrists for failing to identify or take action regarding the signs of Dann's decreasing mental stability. At the time of her suicide, Dann was taking an unlicensed drug called anafranil (generic name: clomipramine). The effects of this drug were initially considered as contributing factors to Dann's mental well-being, but ultimately ruled out.

Two newspaper clippings were found among Dann's possessions after her death. One described a man who randomly killed two people in a public building. The other described a depressed young man who had attempted to commit suicide in the same way that Laurie did; he survived and discovered that his brain injury had cured him of his obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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