Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold: Portrait Of A Deadly Bond

One was a leader, the other a follower. One prone to fits of venomous temper, the other shy and awkward. TIME investigates what led Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to turn Columbine High School into a killing spree

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Though there's always something unknowable about the motives of these student mass murderers, Harris' role in the massacre was no surprise to some Columbine students: they assumed it was Harris as soon as they realized someone was shooting. The son of a retired Air Force officer and a caterer--decent, well-intentioned people who seem to have been wholly outmatched by their cold, manipulative son--Harris was not an unlikely candidate for suburban mayhem. In his childhood, moving with his family from Air Force bases in Ohio and Michigan and upstate New York, he was remembered fondly. "He was just a quiet boy trying to fit in," says Plattsburgh, N.Y., Little League coach Terry Condo. But at Columbine he preferred to stand apart from the crowd. Though the antidepressant Luvox was prescribed to keep his brain chemistry more or less in balance, he was capable of violent outbursts, slow-boil intimidation and murderous rage. He had just been rejected by both the Marine Corps and reportedly several colleges. His class was moving ahead, but despite his intelligence, he was not.

Klebold was the bigger mystery. Shy and a little sad, with a where's-the-floor gaze and a sullen streak, he moved faster when he was in Harris' wake, drawing energy and confidence from him. Yet he seemed to be looking forward to a future that didn't involve guns and bombs. He told people that Harris' pseudo-Nazisms bothered him. At the school prom he giggled and slow-danced with his date, and even held hands--a big move for a too-tall kid who had not yet had his first girlfriend. He and his father Tom, a geophysicist who had moved into the mortgage-services business, had just spent five days visiting the University of Arizona, where Dylan was to attend in the fall. His mother Sue, who worked in job placement for the disabled, was worried about him, but never glimpsed the scope of the problem. She thought getting him out of Columbine would do the trick, and Dylan seemed to agree. Just a few days before the shooting, Dylan told his friend Terra Oglesbee that he "couldn't wait to graduate." He was playing in his beloved fantasy baseball league until the night before the siege, making plans to trade players on the day he killed so many and then died. Was this a masterful cover, or did his mind fail to process what the killing spree would mean? Why would he follow Harris into hell on earth, laughing as they slaughtered or maimed people he knew, people he in some cases truly cared about?

People like Rachel Scott, a beatific presence at the high school who hoped to become a missionary. After she had been buried, some of Scott's classmates recalled a talent show last year in which she did a mime dance portraying Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus' cross along part of the Via Dolorosa. Midway through her performance the music cut out, leaving her stranded. The guy in the sound booth, who obviously liked her, scrambled to hook up a reserve tape deck in time to save her performance. The sound guy was Klebold. How does the same boy have fun carrying out the massacre that took her life?

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