Loughner's Descent Into Madness

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By all accounts, Jared Loughner, the man charged with the Tucson murders, had a relatively normal early childhood. He had a healthy number of friends. His interests included music, videogames and cars. Other parents even trusted him enough to bring him on family vacations. But, as he continued through high school, Loughner's behavior would become erratic, obsessive and anger-ridden. In the following bullets, we've laid out the key turning-points in Loughner's cascade into depression. The first signs of maladjustment began late in grade school:

From his elementary years through middle school, Jared Loughner lived a life that his friends saw as little different from their own. There was something awkward about him, and he was teased more than most, but he had friends and they were often among the smarter kids in his grade. There were sleepovers and hikes and long games of Starcraft and Earth Empires...

"It was pretty messed up," said Nasser Rey, 21, a friend from elementary and middle school. "Somebody taped a sticker on his back and it said, 'Kick me,' and people started kicking him. They just started trying to trip him. But he wasn't being bullied. He didn't start crying or nothing."

  • Sophomore Year In his second year in high school, everything started to fall apart for Loughner, reports The Washington Post:

Many teenagers try on different identities, experiment with new friends, and explore intellectual and emotional frontiers. Friends say Loughner's sophomore year was a whirlwind of change. He left behind his passion of the past few years - he stopped playing sax. He found a new love - his first real girlfriend. He lost that love, changed his look, switched friends, discovered new interests and seemed to drift off into a world of ideas that friends found odd, irrational, disturbing... Loughner's "mental downfall" seemed to start after his breakup with the girlfriend, who did not respond to a request for an interview. Until that relationship blossomed, Loughner "actually had many friends."

  • His Ex-Girlfriend Speaks Out  In an interview with the Daily Mail, Kelsey Hawkes, now 21, describes her relationship with Loughner. "Something changed in him, he was not the same person when I told him it was over. I remember his face clearly--he just looked like he had nothing to live for," she said. During the time they dated, Loughner was a sophomore and Hawkes was a freshman. "It was my first relationship and it was his first relationship. He was definitely in love with me but I'm not sure if I could say I was in love with him--it was typical teenage stuff. Jared used to care about everything, his grades, school, his friends. That was when Jared was a normal person. It all stopped when we broke up." She adds: "There was never any sign of that when we were going out, I would not have dated a weirdo."
  • College Was the Tipping Point, report Marc Lacey and Serge Kovaleski at The New York Times: "Various instructors, students and others described Mr. Loughner as 'creepy,' 'very hostile,' 'suspicious' and someone who had a 'dark personality.' He sang to himself in the library. He spoke out of turn. And in an act the college finally decided merited his suspension, he made a bizarre posting on YouTube linking the college to genocide and the torture of students."
  • The Worst of His Behavior Began Abruptly, add Leslie Eaton, Daniel Gilbert and Ann Zimmerman in The Wall Street Journal. In May, Loughner's instructor requested a police guard stand outside the classroom for fear that he would become violent. That request came after Loughner made a number of strange outburst and unusual comments.  In 2010, events escalated quickly:
The trove of records demonstrates more clearly than before how abruptly Mr. Loughner's life spiraled out of control. When his problems began in February, he had no disciplinary record, the school told police at the time. By September, he was suspended, and later told he couldn't return to school without a mental-health clearance. In November, he bought a gun. Last Saturday, police say, Mr. Loughner opened fire at a supermarket here that left six dead and 14 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.