Teen Killer's Prozac Increased
A Week Before Shooting

By Chuck Haga
Star Tribune - Minneapolis

BEMIDJI, MINN. -- Jeff Weise had "a good relationship" with the grandfather he shot and killed on Monday as prelude to his deadly assault on students and others at Red Lake High School, according to relatives who are struggling to understand what might have pushed the teenager from sometimes bizarre behavior to mass murder and suicide.
They have sifted through the traumas of his childhood: his father's suicide, the car accident that left his mother with reduced mental capacity, the shuttling between the Red Lake Reservation and the Twin Cities, and the taunts of peers over his appearance, size and outsider behavior.
They wondered, too, about medication he was supposedly taking for depression, and a recent increase in his prescribed dosage.
Lee Cook, director of the American Indian Cultural Center at Bemidji State University and a first cousin to Sgt. Daryl (Dash) Lussier, the grandfather, talked about the tragedy Thursday after meeting on the reservation with Lussier's brother, three daughters and other family members.
"The daughters said Jeff loved his grandfather, and his grandfather loved him," Cook said. "There had never been any serious differences or harsh words between them.
"They were surprised by all of this, but they were stunned he would shoot his grandfather."
The .22-caliber rifle that Weise apparently used to kill Lussier and his companion, Michelle Sigana, "might have been Dash's rifle, one he kept around for the kids for hunting," Cook said.
Dosage increased
Weise's relatives "knew he had a problem with depression, and they took him to treatment," Cook said. "He was getting counseling." His medication dosage had been increased a week earlier, Cook added.
His grandmother, Shelda Lussier, 54, said he saw a mental health professional at Red Lake Hospital on Feb. 21, the same day his prescription was refilled for 60 milligrams a day of Prozac, which he had been taking since last summer, the Washington Post reported.
Studies have linked Prozac and similar antidepressants to a greater risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in kids. In October, the Food and Drug Administration revised the drugs' packaging to warn health professionals that they should closely monitor young patients when an antidepressant is prescribed or the dose is changed.
Prozac's manufacturer said monitoring patients being treated for depression is critical, especially if they are children.
Weise, in hundreds of postings attributed to him on the Internet over the past year or so, noted that he was on antidepressants, was going through therapy in Thief River Falls and had attempted suicide at least once by cutting his wrists.
In a posting in January, Weise also wrote of his regret over not having ended his life and hinted that another attempt could be on the way. Friends of Weise said this week that he had tried to kill himself earlier this year.
School officials and others have refused to discuss his medical situation except to confirm that he was placed on "homebound status" this year for an unspecified medical problem.
Relatives also "knew he spent time on the Internet, but they didn't really know what he was into there," Cook said, and reports detailing Weise's postings on a Nazi website have them shaking their heads.
Weise, under a variety of user names, also visited other sites dealing with everything from government conspiracies to surviving school shootings. Last fall he posted a bloody animated video on the Internet in which four people are shot to death before the gunman shoots himself. "He was brighter than usual and had a vocabulary more like a college student than a 16-year-old," Cook said.
School to school
Weise also had a traumatic early childhood, moving from school to school and experiencing the loss of both parents before he was 10 years old. His father, Daryl Lussier Jr., committed suicide in July 1997 during a police stand-off on the reservation. Weise's mother, Joanne, suffered brain damage in 1999 when she and a friend crashed their car after drinking.
Shortly after his father's suicide, Weise was enrolled in the fourth grade at B.F. Pearson Elementary School in Shakopee in September 1997. He stayed until the first week of his fifth-grade year, at which point he was withdrawn and enrolled at Bluff Creek Elementary School in Chaska.
Bluff Creek Principal Cath Gallagher said Weise left school in April 1998, about a month after his mother's traffic accident.
In his Internet postings, Weise said that before her accident his mother would hit him often, yell at him and tell him that his birth had been a mistake.
According to his Internet writings, Weise dressed in a Goth style with a long black coat, black boots and at times red hair spiked into devil's horns.
"I just don't know if anybody gave a lot of credence to the turmoil this guy lived with," Cook said. People said he was "just going through a phase" with his unusual appearance and outsider attitudes, "and that probably was devastating to him."
"I think you can get to the point where you feel you have no relief. Maybe he thought his grandpa should have been more cognizant of that."
Visitation for Lussier and his girlfriend, Michelle Sigana, began Thursday at the Humanities Building in Red Lake. Funeral services for them will be held there at 10 a.m. Saturday.
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