Hubbard Woods Elementary Attack Pt 2

Dec. 6, 2020
Part 2 of our analysis of the attacks committed by Laurie Dann in Winnetka, Illinois at two separate schools and two separate residences.

In part one we looked at the morning of the attack and some of Laurie Dann’s actions that should have indicated the threat level she presented. This part covers the post incident investigation and takes a look at the specific indicators of potential violent behavior on her part.

All of the victims of Dann’s shootings survived with the exception of the boy she shot and killed in the school’s bathroom. Despite Dann’s attacks using poisoned snacks and drinks along with her attempts to do harm by starting fires, the event naturally was used to call for greater gun control laws. The young man who survived being shot in the chest by Dann in his own home later became a lawyer and then an FBI agent having spent some time as the Director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

The post incident investigation revealed that Dann had a troubled and violent past dating back as early as 1985 - three years before her attacks in Winnetka - when her marriage was challenged and included allegations of violence on both sides. At one point her husband was stabbed with an ice-pick but his lack of cooperation with the police led to no charges being pressed against Laurie Dann. Their divorce was finalized in April of 1987. Immediately prior to that, Russell Dann’s (the husband) family received regular harassing phone calls and Laurie Dann was actually arrested for calls made to Russell’s sister. The charges were later dropped.

At the time of the divorce, Laurie Dann was being treated by a psychiatrist for obsessive compulsive disorder and an unspecified chemical imbalance. Laurie was deemed not to be homicidal or suicidal. That was one year before she proved to be both.

During the summer of 1987, while a student (but taking no classes) at university in Evanston, Illinois, Laurie Dann’s behavior caught much attention. She was observed wearing rubber gloves any time she had to touch metal, leaving meat to rot in odd places and riding elevators up  and down endlessly for hours. In the fall of 1987 she bought the S&W .32 revolver she would later use in her attack.

In December of 1987 while being treated by yet another psychiatrist for OCD, mood swings and phobic behaviors, she bought the Beretta .22lr handgun she had during the attack. That same month she began stealing books about poisons from libraries and began to steal chemicals from a lab. She was arrested for shoplifting on one occasion as she procured wigs and clothes to disguise herself, apparently in preparation for her attack. Both her family and her psychiatrist encouraged her to check herself into a mental institution for treatment but she refused. No one attempted to have her committed.

She continued to make threatening phone calls throughout this time frame, escalating them to being death threats made against ex-boyfriends and their families. Since some of the calls were across state lines, the FBI got involved in the investigation and prepared criminal charges, but her victims were so afraid of her actually going through with the threats that they declined to participate until further action could be taken to insure their safety.

During the post-incident investigative search of Laurie Dann’s belongings, two newspaper clippings were found, one of which was about a man suffering from depression due to OCD who attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head through the mouth. He survived and discovered that the brain damage he caused himself had cured his OCD.

Much speculation was made about Dann’s motives and rationale. None of it changed the fact that she attacked a school and a family in horrific fashion and then attacked children in a school with handguns. A book was written about Laurie Dann, her life and her attacks and it eventually became a made-for-TV movie starring Valerie Bertinelli. Such might be seen as glorifying an active shooter and should be avoided in the future.

About the Author

Joshua Borelli

Joshua Borelli has been studying active shooter and mass attack events over the course of the past several years, commensurate with receiving training on response and recovery to natural disasters and civil disturbances. Joshua started to outline this series of articles in an attempt to identify commonalities and logistical needs patterns for response.

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