A man used an Internet chat room to try to set up a mass suicide on Valentine's Day involving more than two dozen women across the United States and Canada, authorities said.
Gerald Krein, 26, was arrested Wednesday at his mother's mobile home in Klamath Falls and faces charges of solicitation to commit murder, sheriff's deputies said. Investigators are subpoenaing chat room records to try to contact people who may have planned to take part in the suicide.
Detectives learned of the plan from a woman in Canada who said she saw the message in a Yahoo chat room that had the words "Suicide Ideology" in the title.
The woman told detectives she was going to take part in the suicide but had second thoughts when another chat room participant said she would do it and talked about killing her two children before taking her own life, said Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger.
"Our primary goal is to try to locate where these endangered children might be," Evinger said. "We need to investigate where these other computers are. Hopefully we can intervene if anyone still has the notion to follow through with this."
The chat room participants planned to log in on Valentine's Day and commit suicide while keeping in touch over the Internet, Evinger said. The chat room is no longer active.
Krein was looking for women and children to join in the suicide, said sheriff's Capt. Chris Montenaro. Investigators believe the total number, including Krein, was 32, Montenaro said.
Deputies seized Krein's computer and a Web cam, and the suspect was being held without bail. Krein had moved to Klamath Falls from the Sacramento, California, area about a year ago to take care of his ailing father, Evinger said.
Neighbors told the Herald and News newspaper that Krein was a burly man who favored tie-dyed T-shirts and looked "like a mountain man."
District Attorney Ed Caleb said he is taking the solicitations seriously.
"There is always a chance this is a joke, but our position is in this world, any time a person makes these kinds of overt actions, they need to be looked into," Caleb said.
A grand jury will convene Monday to determine if Krein will face additional charges, Caleb said.
R. Thomas Boone, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at St. John's University in New York, said Valentine's Day can be a powerful psychological trigger for lonely people.
"Valentine's Day is one those things where people say, `I should have someone with me,"' Boone said. "Then they go look for someone. Often times these are people of low self-esteem. They get involved with someone more powerful, who has got charisma and seems to have the answer."