'He Felt Inferior' Investigators and Aquaintances Describe Killer

Depression, feelings of inferiority, frustration. There were many motives driving Tim K. to kill -- none of them easy to spot. His parents underestimated the stricken psyche of their son. They have now fled to a secret location -- after being allowed to see their son one last time.

The life led by family K. of Weiler zum Stein, an idyllic southern German village, was one that would be the envy of many. It seemed as perfect as the small garden in front of their house. "It's practically a new home still," neighbors say, peering over at the bright, well-kept villa with a mixture of envy and well wishing.

After the events of March 11, 2009, though, nobody would want to change roles with the K.'s. That was the day their son Tim killed 15 people in cold blood before shooting himself. The latest information obtained by investigators suggests that Tim K. stole a weapon and hundreds of bullets from his father, who was an enthusiast at a local gun club. Prosecutors are now considering whether to investigate possible manslaughter charges against Tim's father.

"The public prosecutor's office is looking in to whether it should open an investigation. In order to do that, we have to closer examine the allegations," Claudia Krauth, a spokeswoman for the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Tim K.'s father and mother were at a loss when members of the SEK, a German police swat team, stormed their house and searched it on Wednesday as other heavily-armed officers hunted down their son.

A few seconds before his death, the 17-year-old took two police bullets, one in each calf. But Tim didn't collapse as expected. He managed to load his father's Beretta one more time, set the muzzle of the pistol against his right temple, and shot himself. "It's not surprising, given the amount of adrenalin that must have been coursing through his body," one investigator says.

Of course, it isn't possible to measure the grief of parents who have just learned their son killed 15 people. "They also lost someone they loved," says Siegfried Mahler, head of the public prosecutor's office in Stuttgart.

Their single wish after the tragedy was to see Tim one last time. On Thursday they appeared in the coroner's office and said goodbye to their child, on whose body an autopsy will be performed on Friday.

As for the 15 people he killed, the prosecutor won't press for autopsies. "We don't want to add any pain to the families," Mahler says. All the victims will be laid out together so family and friends can say goodbye, he adds.

Following Wednesday's events, father and mother moved to a secret location with their 15-year-old daughter. They want to be left in peace in order to grasp the situation. They've turned down psychological care from the police, though it was offered several times. The only people who know where they're staying -- and the only ones who can contact them -- are investigators.

Tim's parents won't receive police protection. "We don't think they're in any danger," says public prosecutor Mahler. The police have only agreed to continue keeping an eye on their house in Weiler zum Stein.

Like Any Other Day

On the day of the massacre, Tim didn't leave the house in military fatigues. He wasn't wearing a ski mask. Nor did he have an ammunition belt or combat boots. The 17-year-old left the house just as he did on any other day. He was wearing jeans, a sweater and a jacket that any other young adult might have worn -- except that his was packed full with 250 rounds of ammunition.

"He stuffed them in the pockets of his pants, sleeves and jacket," says Ralf Michelfelder, the chief criminal investigator in the city of Waiblingen responsible for the case. Tim was intent on killing "as many people as possible," according to Michelfelder. The investigators are convinced that "despite the high number of victims, we managed to prevent something worse from happening. Tim wanted to kill many more people."

They think his anger was motivated by a lack of self-esteem. "He thought he wasn't respected, he felt inferior," Michelfelder says. He often said to his parents, "No one can tell me what to do!"

It must be difficult for Tim's parents to hear that on the night before the rampage, Tim wrote in a chat forum, "I have had enough of this crappy life. Everything's the same. People make fun of me. Nobody recognizes my potential." Or that he held a pistol to the head of his 41-year-old hostage and said, "Should I have fun and pick off some more drivers?"

Their son, of all people. Tim's neighbors and the parents of his classmates say that his upbringing in the 3,000-person town of Weiler am Stein was very sheltered. He and his younger sister lacked for nothing. "His parents bought them both practically everything they wanted," says Tim's friend Daniel*. Tim's father had studied mathematics and started a business that now has over 100 employees. Tim's friends from school describe his father as stern, but his employees prized the loyalty of their boss and said he "has his heart in the right place."

A Villa, a Porsche and Weapons

His parents kept it to themselves that Tim was receiving psychological treatment. Even his sister hadn't known that his brother had been seeing a psychiatrist in Heilbronn. Though the military draft office (ed's note: military service is compulsory in Germany) had officially certified that Tim had psychological problems, his parents did not want to draw attention to that fact. But they must have known that he had not continued with his therapy treatment.

They are an affluent couple. They showed pride in their home, which they had custom built with a large winter garden, a rooftop terrace and bonsai trees in the garden. "Other than their house and their Porsche, though, they weren't ostentatious with their money," says one neighbour. "Well, he did have a thing for weapons," her husband interrupts.

The police, so far, have not commented on the question of why Tim's parents kept 14 guns in a safe (as regulations require), but stored one of their guns in their bedroom. "They're certainly not the only people out there who think they can protect themselves from burglars by keeping a gun on their nightstand," one investigator says.

The burden that father and mother must be feeling is a heavy one. "They are just as much victims as the 15 people their son shot and their relatives," says one pensioner living on a street that runs parallel to the K.'s. "They will also feel guilty for having taken him to the gun club."

Indeed, Tim "had a lot of practice in using guns," says Baden-Württemberg Interior Minister Heribert Rech. He fired 60 shots in the rooms of his former school, nine times at the psychiatric clinic and 44 times once in Wendlingen.

'He Always Hit the Bull's Eye with his Air Gun'

One investigator said Tim's parents still find it inconceivable that their son could have gone on a deadly shooting rampage. As a child, with dark hair and brown eyes, he was very athletic, shy and well liked. "We remember him as being a totally nice and ambitious table tennis player," says Eva Sebel, who heads the local TSV Leutenbach table tennis team. He was first in his his division for table tennis in his regional league in 2001. And in 2004, at the age of 13, he won the regional championship.

People who knew Tim described him as polite -- a person who knew how to behave himself and who lived his life quietly without sharing it with too many friends. But he did regularly meet up with two former classmates, and one lived near his family's home.

They often "horsed around" with air guns in the basement of Tim's parents' house. Tim owned more than 20 such weapons. "That sounds so bad now, but everyone does that. It has nothing to do with violence," says his friend Dirk. He says Tim's father even built a shooting range for him in the basement.

Tim also liked to play games like "Ego Shooter" and "Counterstrike" on his computer. But he enjoyed paint ball even more. "Still, that's just fun -- it's nothing bad. You can't just typecast him," Dirk* says, defending Tim. Daniel*, another friend, says: "We often shot at targets in Tim's basement using an air gun. Tim always hit the bull's eye."

Alexander Stalder, the deputy head of the Waiblingen crime unit, says BB gun ownership isn't abnormal in Germany. "Air guns are hanging on the walls of the bedrooms of typical young men," he says. He also notes that the perpetrator didn't have a huge collection of horror or violent movies -- he just had a handful.

And on the computer in his bedroom, investigators came across only a few pornographic pictures and violent video games, "like many youth" have, says chief investigator Mahler. For a young man of his age, there was nothing unusual. For the past three years, he had been lifting weights because he wanted "bigger arms." Also nothing out of ordinary.

"There was no farewell letter," says Stalder. But investigators say they will sift through all the notebooks and address books in Tim's bedroom just to make sure.

* The names of minors quoted in this story have been changed by the editors in order to protect their identity.

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