Saturday, August 29, 2009
BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 28 -- In what has become a sadly familiar ritual, about 100 students huddled together Friday on the Drillfield at the heart of the Virginia Tech campus, weeping and singing hymns as they mourned two slain classmates.
Heidi Childs, 18, and David Metzler, 19, bright and promising students who were active in Campus Crusade for Christ, were found fatally shot Thursday morning in a national park about 15 miles from campus. Police said Friday that they had no suspects.
The deaths of the young couple, which took place during the first week of classes, shook a community that has endured a string of tragedies. In April 2007, it became the site of the worst mass killing by an individual in U.S. history when a troubled student fatally shot 32 people and himself. In January, a student was decapitated in a campus cafe, and a classmate was charged.
"It's more disbelief," said Olivia Kasik, 19, a sophomore from Woodbridge. "It happened again. You can't really wrap your head around it."
At Burruss Hall, the administration building, flags were lowered to half-staff. A wreath bore the names of Childs and Metzler. Some professors took time before class to talk about the shootings.
In a letter to the campus community, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger urged students to seek support and solace from one another or counselors.
"Once again, this community is visited by senseless violence and tragedy upon aspiring young minds from our campus," Steger wrote. "I know that many of you likely have complex feelings about now. How can this happen in this area, at thi time, to this community?"Montgomery County sheriff's officials said a passerby at Caldwell Fields, a popular hangout for Virginia Tech students in Jefferson National Forest, found the couple dead in the parking area about 8 a.m. Thursday. Metzler was in his car, and Childs was outside the car.
Lt. Brian Wright of the sheriff's office said the pair apparently went alone to the remote area, where people camp and picnic. The students, both sophomores, were last heard from Wednesday night. He said no guns were found at the scene.
Wright said investigators have not found links to any other crimes and are asking anyone who had been in contact with the couple to call.
"You have two real good kids just trying to have a nice evening, and they were killed for apparently no reason," Wright said.
Childs, of Forest, Va., was the daughter of Virginia State Police Sgt. Donald Childs and was studying biochemistry. Metzler, of Lynchburg, studied industrial and systems engineering.
Kent Gregory, youth pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Lynchburg, said the teenagers, who were deeply faithful and read the Bible daily, met through the church when they were in middle school. He said Childs had been home-schooled and Metzler went to a public school.
Both were close with their families, Gregory said. He said Childs was one of eight children and Metzler had three older sisters.
Gregory said the teenagers, who played guitar in church praise groups, began dating about two years ago. In summer 2007, they went on a missionary trip to New Mexico and helped run a vacation Bible school.
"They just loved the little kids," Gregory said. "They got down and played with them."
At the sprawling campus Friday, many of the 30,000 full-time students who had moved in only days earlier went about the business of starting the school year. Students expressed sadness, but some said the slayings had not received much notice because classes had just begun and the shootings did not occur on campus.
But for many, the killings hit hard.
Larry Hincker, a university spokesman, said Friday that he attended a meeting to discuss how to assist students, faculty and staff, many of whom are still reeling from the April 16, 2007, rampage. One of the people in the meeting, he said, was Jerzy Nowak, founder of the university's Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. Nowak's wife was slain in the mass killing.
On Friday, the university released a list of numbers for counseling and other services. "We are a strong community and, as we have before, I urge you to care for each other and seek help and support whenever necessary," Steger wrote.
"It's a huge moment again," said Brian Covington, 21, a senior from Herndon. "It seems like something happens every single semester here. I don't want to say we're numbed to it or used to it."
Stay tuned for more...in the meantime Loren Coleman is on the scene!