MISSISSIPPI GOTHIC

IN A DRAMATIC TURN, AN ALLEGED ONE-MAN RAMPAGE MAY HAVE BECOME A SEVEN-POINTED CONSPIRACY

This is a twice-told tale, and the second telling magnifies the terror of the first. It takes place in Pearl, a town of 22,000 outside Jackson, Miss., flustered for years by an unwelcome reputation as the state's unofficial capital for double-wide-trailer salesmen. Two weeks ago, however, true infamy was visited on Pearl.

At 8 a.m. on Oct. 1, Luke Woodham, 16, bookish and overweight, drove a white Chevy Corsica up to his high school. That was already a sign of trouble: the young man had poor vision and was driven to school every day by his mother. But three hours earlier...

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