|“||I'm not a sick person, you know. I'm just your average intellectual...I may look like I'm crazy but I'm not.||”|
Sylvia Seegrist is a woman suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who, on the Halloween of 1985, killed three people and wounded an additional seven in a shooting rampage at the Springfield Mall in Springfield, PA.
Born on July 31, 1960, Seegrist, as a child, was abused by her grandfather who also performed sexual acts in front of her. She had a lengthy history of mental illness and was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of 15, exactly ten years prior to her shooting. As a result of her mental illness, she distanced herself from family and friends, was disoriented, experienced frequent visits to hospitals, and had difficulty supporting herself financially. She also threatened people commonly, with police being aware of her identity for some time. In the weeks prior to the shooting, Seegrist began identifying strongly with war and militarism and also developed a fascination with negative energy and rampage killers, most notably James Huberty. She also started wearing camouflage pants, wraparound sunglasses, a red Arabian-style headdress, and two T-shirts (one reading "Kill Them All" and the other reading "Jihad") as her traditional clothing, even to a spa and a steam room at a local fitness club. Seegrist eventually signed up for the U.S. Army on December 1984, but was discharged two months later due to behavioral problems induced by her mental illness. Seegrist's violent behavior increased sharply when she started refusing to take her medication properly. On one occasion, she tried to strangle her mother to death; one another, she stabbed her counselor in the back with a paring knife. The latter incident led to her transfer to a forensic hospital, then sent to rehabilitation and later discharged. Seegrist somehow came to plan a shooting at the Springfield Mall, which she frequented.
Shooting, Trial, and Institutionalization
"Why did you do this? Why did you shoot these people?"
"My family makes me nervous."
-Seegrist, upon being asked of her motive of the shooting by a security guard
Prior to the shooting, Seegrist attempted to purchase a rifle at a local K-Mart, but her erratical behavior alarmed clerks into saying that there were no rifles currently in stock. She was eventually able to purchase a Ruger 10/22 rifle from a sporting goods counter at Best Products for $107. Seegrist then went to Springfield Mall, stopping by at a fitness center, a library, and a party store, coming across as extremely angry and hostile. On Halloween, she returned to the mall in her white Datsun, at approximately 3:30 p.m. With her was her Ruger rifle, and she was wearing olive-green military fatigues, a knit cap, and black boots. Getting out of her car, Seegrist opened fire. Her first target was a man named Edward Seitz, shooting at him twice but missing. Having seen the car Seegrist emerged from, Seitz slashed the Datsun's tires to prevent escape and found a brown rifle case, a pair of fingerless gloves, a newspaper, and bullets left behind accidentally at the backseat. Meanwhile, Seegrist fired on two more people, but missed both of them. She then fired several shots into the Magic Pan restaurant, hitting three children, one of them, a two-year-old boy, fatally. Seegrist then entered the mall. Inside, she fired numerous shots at people and inside stores. At a Kinney shoe store, she was able to fatally shoot an elderly man three times. She then went to the pedestrian area and continued shooting at fleeing shoppers, hitting many but mostly wounding them. Seegrist was able to claim one more victim, another elderly man, when she was disarmed by a 24-year-old graduate student named John Laufer, whom she attempted to shoot; Laufer assumed that the shooting was nothing more than a Halloween prank. The four-minute-long shooting ended, and police eventually arrived and arrested Seegrist. Despite the low body count, the shooting still gained a considerable amount of attention from the media because of the gender of the perpetrator. Police believed that she didn't act alone and searched the mall for an accomplice, but found none and evacuated the mall, closing it down for the day.
Seegrist attended her arraignment barefoot and proved to be uncooperative, yelling profane statements at the present judge. On December 5, Seegrist was deemed unfit to stand on trial, but following a refusal by Swarthmore Public Library Director Janis Lee's refusal to disclose Seegrist's reading preferences, another evaluation for competency was set up and she was deemed competent to stand on trial on March 7, 1986. The trial began on June 18, 1986, in which prosecutors stated that Seegrist wasn't a schizophrenic but bipolar, had planned the shooting beforehand, and her motivation was attention, with Seegrist's defense attorneys countering it with the fact that she was mentally unstable and couldn't have distinguished the difference between right and wrong as a result. The trial lasted for eight days in total, and the jury eventually found her guilty but mentally ill. She was then sentenced to three life sentences for her three murders and a maximum of seventy years for her seven attempted murders. She was sent to Norristown State Hospital for two-and-a-half years, then was relocated to the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Muncy, Pennsylvania. There, she appeared to have eventually stabilized herself of her violent, homicidal behavior, felt remorse for her actions, and had hopes of being released in the future. Sometime in 1994, she nearly completed a college degree in psychology that she hoped to obtain and was also teaching math to the other prisoners. However, she completely cut herself off from her family, refusing to establish contact with her parents ever since. Seegrist's shooting rampage seemed to have inspired an unidentified woman to commit a firebombing at the Springfield Mall on July 13. The woman later called Seegrist and asked her of what she thought about her handiwork. This woman was later arrested on September 15, 1987 after attempting to blow up a church with a pipe bomb.
Seegrist shot her victims with a .22-caliber Ruger 10/22 semiautomatic rifle with rotary magazines. During the shooting at the mall, she chose stores to open fire into at random, intentionally ignoring some.
- Unspecified date: Ruth Seegrist (her mother; attempted; tried to fatally strangle)
- Unspecified date in 1980: Her unnamed counselor (attempted, but survived; was non-fatally stabbed in the back with a paring knife)
- October 30, 1985: The Springfield Mall shooting:
- The shootings outside:
- Edward Seitz (attempted; shot at twice, but missed)
- An unnamed woman (attempted; shot at, but missed)
- An unnamed man (attempted; shot at, but missed)
- The Magic Pan restaurant shooting:
- Recife Cosmen, 2 (killed; shot in the lung and heart)
- An unnamed 9-year-old girl (injured; shot in the right cheek)
- An unnamed 10-year-old boy (slightly injured; shot in the chest)
- The Oriental furniture store shooting (no casualties; a plate glass window was shattered)
- The Rite Aid drugstore shooting: Unnamed clerk (attempted; shot at, but missed)
- The Kinney shoe store shooting: Doctor Ernest Trout, 67 (killed; shot three times, one in the brain; died on December 1 from a blood clot caused by his injuries)
- The pedestrian area shootings:
- Augustus Ferrara, 64 (killed)
- An unnamed man (injured; shot behind the ear)
- An unnamed girl (injured; shot twice in the stomach)
- An unnamed woman (injured; shot in the back)
- An unnamed woman (injured; shot twice in the abdomen)
- An unnamed adolescent girl (injured; shot twice in the left hand and right wrist)
- John Laufer, 24 (attempted; was disarmed by him)
- The shootings outside:
On Criminal Minds
While Seegrist hasn't been mentioned or referenced on Criminal Minds yet, there appears to have been a nod made towards her in the Season Six episode Hanley Waters, when female spree killer Shelley Chamberlain shot a security guard while being driven by a delusion inside a local shopping mall.
- ↑ The Islamic word for "Holy War"