Female School Shooter: Laurie Dann
In the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, there has been one shooting which many have forgotten: the one reported case where a female was the offender in a school shooting. It has been reported that sixty percent of the shootings which have happened over the last three decades happened in small towns, and the perpetrator is almost always a young male (Calhoun). Laurie Dann is the exception to the rule.
Born Laurie Wasserman on October 18, 1957 to Edith Joy, 27, and Norman Wasserman, 28, an accountant, she was a very, very quiet girl growing up (Papajohn and Kaplan). She had a brother, Mark, five years her senior. Laurie grew up near South Shore, a neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois. When she was seven her family moved to North Shore in Highland Park. Both in elementary and middle school, she was not known to have any close friends but always made good grades. In high school, after sophomore year, Laurie’s family moved to Glencoe where she attended New Trier High School. There Laurie did not seem to have many girlfriends but was known to be very popular with the boys. She tried out for cheerleading and the Girls Club, but didn’t make either which made her very angry. “I perceived a paranoia when girls were around,” a female classmate recalled. “She always had a boyfriend and was really clingy, draped around him. That really struck me, that she was somehow frightened and had a real unhealthy attachment to boys” (Papajohn and Kaplan).
Laurie’s father always lavished gifts on his daughter; however their family lacked emotion or displays of affection. After high school, Laurie attended four different universities; however she never earned a degree. In fall of 1976, she entered Drake University in Des Moines as an education major. A year later she transferred to the University of Arizona in Tucson as a liberal arts major. At this time she had a steady boyfriend for two years, a pre-med student. They broke up when he was about to enter medical school. In the summer of 1980, she left the university and began dating Russell Dann. He worked for the family business, Dann Brothers Insurance Company. They were married on September 11, 1982. By now Laurie had enrolled and withdrawn from six courses at Northwestern University’s continuing education program.
Once they were married, Laurie did not need to work because her husband was earning a six figure income. So she stayed home all day. Russell would work hard all day and by the time he got home, Laurie would have just gotten out of bed. He began to notice what he first thought to be odd superstitions, at stoplights she would open the car door and tap her foot on the pavement and she would refuse to close the kitchen cabinets (Papajohn and Kaplan). He then began to realize that her problems were more serious. Laurie’s father was part owner of a clothing store and he would always bring her new clothes. They would end up in heaps on the closet floor and she would leave the house looking like a homeless woman.
Laurie did start seeing a psychiatrist, but by March 1984 she began refusing treatment. A letter from her psychiatrist begged her to return for treatment and told her she could not rely on medication to solve her problems. Later in 1985, after they had purchased a nice house, Laurie and Russell separated. In January 1986, Laurie filed for divorce. That summer Laurie’s ex-boyfriend, now a doctor, began receiving harassing phone calls. She also bought a .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum. She told her parents it was for protection. Her parents told Russell, and Russell in turn told the police.
In August 1986, Laurie met another man, John Childs. His mother commented on Laurie’s idiosyncrasies. She remembers her constantly washing her hands, opening doors and picking things up with her sleeves, and not liking to be touched. That September, Russell Dann was stabbed in the chest...
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