Town Mourns Girl Shot In School Siege

One of the vehicles involved in the procession to a memorial service for 16-year-old Emily Keyes passes by ribbons tied on poles along Highway 285 in Bailey, Colo. on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006. Keyes was killed by a gunman who stormed Platte Canyon High School on Wednesday in the Colorado mountain community. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP
The family of a 16-year-old girl who was held hostage, assaulted and killed at her school urged mourners Saturday to remember her with random acts of kindness and not negative thoughts.

"We have the power to do this," family spokesman Louis Gonzales said. "Let's take the random act that has occurred and turn it to random acts of kindness."

Emily Keyes was shot in the head Wednesday as she fled Duane Morrison, who had held her and six other girls hostage. Morrison killed himself after a SWAT team stormed the classroom.

Several thousand people turned out in the small mountain community for a memorial at the National Farmers Union Education Center. Pink ribbons lined the road, tied to ponderosa pines.

"Emily was a part of my life and a part of all of your lives, and I know that," her twin brother, Casey, said. "And that part was torn away and stolen this Wednesday. But the part of us that can never be torn away and never be stolen is the love and strength that keeps us together."

The crowd greeted Sheriff Fred Wegener with a standing ovation.

"This is the hardest thing that I'll ever face and I want the Keyes family to know that if I could trade places right now, I'd do it in a heartbeat," Wegener said. "Emily will be with me in my heart forever."

On Friday night, a candlelight vigil was held. "I think everybody's looking for answers," said Gray Anderson, a counselor who has been talking with residents. "People are just looking for reasons why."

Earlier it was learned that Morrison had indicated he planned some violent act. A 14-page letter from Morrison was postmarked Wednesday in nearby Shawnee — the same day he took six girls hostage and killed himself.

Morrison claimed in the letter that it was not a suicide note, Sheriff Fred Wegener said.

"However, many times, the letter references suicide," Wegener said. "This letter clearly acknowledges his pending death. It also apologizes to his family for his actions that will occur."

The letter contains no reference to Platte Canyon High or any other school, nor does it refer to a specific time or plans to harm anyone else, authorities said, leaving investigators with no known connection between the gunman and this town of about 3,500 people 35 miles from Denver.

Morrison, 53, sexually molested all six girls before SWAT teams stormed the classroom, the sheriff said. During a gun battle with police, Morrison shot 16-year-old Emily Keyes to death and then killed himself.

The letter "doesn't tell me a lot of why," Wegener said, but it does suggest "he probably intended to kill both the young ladies and then kill himself, or have us shoot him."

A copy of the letter was not released, but Denver station KUSA-TV reported that it alluded to Morrison being molested. The letter also made arrangements for Morrison's personal belongings, according to the station, which did not say how it learned of its contents.

Investigators identified Morrison as a petty criminal who had a Denver address but apparently had been living in a motel and possibly in his battered Jeep. They also traced the handgun used in the shooting to one of Morrison's brothers, who turned over the still-sealed letter Thursday.