On May 20th, 1988, Laurie Dann, 30, went on a rampage that ended with two dead, a little boy, Nicholas Corwin, just 8 years old and herself by suicide. The rampage happened in Winnetka, an affluent suburb of Chicago, resulting in an uproar over gun control and higher security in schools.
Laurie Wasserman, born in the late fifties to Norman and Edith Wasserman seemed to have an unremarkable childhood. She was an awkward teenager until her parents helped transform her with plastic surgery. She emerged beautiful and brought attention from many suitors.
After graduating from New Trier East High School, she attended the University of Arizona for four years but never graduated. Not really after an education, but instead looking for a wealthy man to marry, Laurie thought she had found one in a premed student. Letting her schoolwork slide, figuring she would be married to a doctor, she was devastated when her “fiance” ended the relationship. Sadly, her obsession for this man would go on for several years. With very little interest in continuing her education there, she would return home to the Chicago area in 1980.
After returning home, she would occasionally attend adult education classes, never to finish. One fateful day, while working a summer job as a cocktail waitress at Green Acres Country Club in Northbrook, she met Russell Dann, a son of a wealthy Highland Park family. He was soon smitten by the beautiful, dark haired woman. She seemed a little shy but signs of her deteriorating mental state didn’t start coming out until after their September of 1982 wedding.
Starting a new life in a beautiful $230,000 Highland Park home, wedded bliss wasn’t to last. Russell started to notice little quirks about his new bride. She had no interest in decorating her new home or even cleaning it. When she did try to help by doing the laundry, she would fold it up sopping wet and put away in drawers, leaving them to mold. Makeup was kept in the microwave and cash was thrown in the back seat of her car like trash. Russell would come home after work to find the house a mess and dinner never waiting, while his wife spent her days watching television.
While the marriage would last several years, her husband would begin to notice her “quirks” worsening. She started doing little rituals such as tapping her foot on the ground at every stoplight and compulsive hand washing. She soon became a recluse not even liking to leave for her husband’s social engagements. As much as Russell loved his wife, she needed more help than he was able to give.
By May 1987, they were divorced following a separation, leaving Laurie with an $125,000 cash settlement.
Following the divorce, she moved back in with her parents in Glencoe. Her behavior grew increasingly erratic, obsessed with personal hygiene, compulsive hand washing and an aversion to being touched.
Laurie first came to the attention of the police in 1985 marital disputes.
In 1986, someone stabbed Russell Dann while sleeping, missing his heart by an inch. Although a store clerk identified Laurie Dann as buying an ice pick a few days before the stabbing, she was not seen entering or leaving the apartment of her husband. With nothing but circumstantial evidence, it came down to his word against hers. He failed a polygraph and she was well versed in playing the victim. Charges were dropped much to her husband’s chagrin.
About the same time as this incident, a Tucson physician (her ex college boyfriend) started receiving harassing phone calls and letters. The phone calls included death threats to the now married doctor and his family. She also claimed to be pregnant with his child even though she hadn’t see in him in five years. The harassment wouldn’t end until his lawyer sent a letter to Laurie’s parents asking that they control their daughter.
In January 1987, Laurie decided to try something new, babysitting. She posted flyers at a local grocery store and the Glencoe Library. Seemingly nice and a little shy, one mother didn’t hesitate to hire Laurie Dann. She also recommended her to friends.
The trusting parents began to notice things wrong after she would leave from a babysitting job. Leather sofas were slashed, rugs cut up, 2 electric garage door openers went missing. Laurie Dann of course, denied everything. After one couple reported it to the police, they were told of other reports. But with only circumstantial evidence, no charges were filed.
In the summer of 1987, Laurie Dann decided to have yet another new start. Her father sublet a dorm room on the northwestern campus. After complaints of leaving raw meat in sofa cushions to rot and stuffing students boxes with garbage, the university reached her father. He persuaded her to return home.
Returning to babysitting, she continued to hack up furniture and stole hundreds of dollars worth of food. Her father covering for her as he had been for years, would pay restitution for damages.
The final unraveling of her sanity would begin in January of 1988. She moved to Madison, Wisconsin to live near the campus of the University of Wisconsin. She was enrolled as a guest student and was welcome to monitor classes. She rarely left the dorm and became known as the elevator lady. She would ride up and down the elevator for all hours of the night, randomly pressing buttons.
She began to leave raw meat in the cushions of the tv room. She was regarded strangely by her peers for wearing gloves constantly and never touching metal. She would appear naked in the hallways and turned her dorm room into a public health hazard. Garbage and rotting food were strewed everywhere.
In March, she would be arrested for shoplifting. Released on a $200 bond, she was accepted into a first offenders program to avoid jail time. Later that month, one of the dorm rooms in her building was set ablaze. She was suspected but there was no proof.
In April, she began making more death threats to Tucson. Arizona officials contacted the FBI. The FBI then contacted Illinois authorities.On May 13th, the FBI notified Madison police, that she might own a gun. She did. In actuality, she owned three guns. Pistols that she obtained legally. Police tried to confiscate the weapons but her father refused to hand them over, claiming his daughter needed them for protection from her ex-husband.
May 14th, which marked the end of the semester, a fellow student found his clothes slashed and books destroyed. Laurie Dann was implicated. Later that night, she was found by a resident adviser in the garbage room, asleep in a garbage pile, naked in the fetal position. She was sweating profusely and covered with a garbage bag. The following day, when FBI came to question her about the death threats, she was gone.
Four days later, she appeared at the home of one of her babysitting clients in Glencoe. She was told she wouldn’t be needed as a babysitter because the family was moving to New York.
Apparently this family wasn’t aware of her instability because when she asked if she could take their sons to a fair the next morning, they agreed. She stayed up late that last night preparing for her big day. She made rice crispy snacks and prepared packaged juice drinks, apparently injecting them with arsenic, a syringe was later found in her room with traces of the poison.
She awoke early on May 20th, delivering her venomous treats to a couple of frat houses and six homes in Glencoe, Highland Park, and Winnetka. Arriving at her employers house to pick up the boys, she gave them tainted milk. The boys thought it tasted funny and threw it out while Laurie Dann wasn’t looking. After picking up the boys, Dann went on to a school and daycare center where her ex-sister-in-law had children enrolled. Setting a fire at Ravinia School with gas in a plastic bag, then to the daycare center with a can of gasoline where she was chased off by a daycare worker.
Returning the children to their home, she brought them down to the basement, where their mother was doing laundry. Laurie Dann mumbled something about having to leave and within secs of her departure, the basement stairs were aflame. The family managed to escape by breaking a small window and crawling through to safety.
By the time, the basement fire was started, Laurie Dann was well on her way to Hubbard Woods Elementary School, armed with two handguns.
Laurie Dann first shot a little boy in the stomach, in a school washroom. Next she headed to a second grade classroom where she began shooting wildly through the classroom. Nicholas Corwin, age 8, was killed instantly. She critically wounded five others.
Fleeing the school, she crashed her car into a tree on a one way street. Stripping her blood soaked shorts, she proceeded to run away wearing only a plastic bag tied around her waist.
She reloaded her .32 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver and crossed a back yard to enter the unlocked door of Ruth Andrews and her family. She told them that she had just been raped and shot her attacker.
She claimed the police were after her for shooting the rapist and it was a misunderstanding. She held the family at bay for over six hours. Using their phone to call her mother, who tried to tell her to turn herself in, that everything would be okay.
After speaking with her, Phillip Andrews, 20, motioned to his family to leave, which Laurie allowed. The brave young man tried to wrestle the gun away from her only to be shot in the chest. He staggered out of the house and collapsed on the lawn. Laurie Dann fled to an upstairs bedroom and put the .32 into her mouth, killing herself instantly.
The aftermath of her rampage left seven people shot, one small boy dead and several non fatal poisonings. With no suicide note, it’s hard to say what finally caused her final snap. She had been seeing psychiatrists for many years and was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and thought to have “erotomania”, a disorder that is a pathological attachment to men she wrongly believed were in love with her.
Autopsy result revealed lithium (manic depressant) and Anafranil (anti depressant). Both drugs are sometimes believed to cause violence in patients. The truth is, her parents should have her institutionalized years before.