Laurie Dann’s 1988 school shooting hit close to home

One of the U.S’s first school shootings committed by NT grad

Lexi Shoup

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On May 20, 1988, Laurie Dann from Glencoe, Illinois executed a premeditated plan involving poison, an array of guns, and the New Trier community.

Although these events occurred on May 20, they really began far earlier, deep into Laurie Dann’s past. She started off like any one of us.

According to the “Chicago Tribune,” she grew up in Glencoe, graduated from New Trier in 1975, attended Drake University and transferred to University of Arizona, studying to become a teacher.

As the course of her life went on, the people around her noticed strange behavior, including signs of OCD and other controlling personality traits.

She married Russell Dan, but they divorced in 1985. Russell and his family reportedly received harassing phone calls, but charges were never pressed. Laurie claimed multiple times that Russell was abusive, and her family defended her throughout. Her psychiatrist told police he did not believe that Laurie was suicidal or homicidal.

Days before May 20, Dann prepared rice cereal snacks and juice boxes, all poisoned with diluted arsenic, as explained by the “Chicago Tribune.” She mailed them to her friends, ex-babysitting clients, psychiatrist, ex-husband Russell Dan, and others.

On the morning of May 20, the main portion of her plan began. She delivered these snacks and juice boxes around the community to friends, families whom she babysat, fraternity houses, and Leverone Hall at Northwestern University.

Thankfully, not many of these drinks or snacks were consumed because of their unappetizing appearance and immediate poor taste. And because they were so highly diluted, no one became seriously ill.

At 9 am, Dann arrived at the home of the Rushe family, her former babysitting clients, in Winnetka. She took their children to Ravinia Elementary School, where she mistakenly believed her sister-in-law’s two sons were enrolled.

Leaving the children in the car, she went inside and tried to ignite a fire bomb in a hallway, which students quickly discovered after she left and was put out by a teacher.

She then drove the kids back to their home in Winnetka, where Dann lured the two kids and mother downstairs, used gasoline to set the house on fire, and trapped the three of them in the basement. They managed to escape, foiling another of Dann’s plans.

With three hand guns, Dann drove to Hubbard Woods Elementary School, where she pushed a boy into a bathroom and shot him with a .22 semi-automatic Beretta pistol. She trashed her Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver when it jammed when trying to fire at two other boys.

These boys ran out of the bathroom and pulled the fire alarm.

Continuing in the school, Dann entered a second grade classroom and ordered the students into a corner of the room. The teacher refused and tried to disarm her, managing to unload her Beretta pistol.

Dann drew her .32 Smith and Wesson from her waistband and shot five children, killing eight-year-old Nicholas Corwin and wounding two girls and two boys. She then fled to her car.

The Andrews family was her next victim. Dann entered the home of 20-year-old Phillip Andrews and held him and his parents hostage, claiming that she had been raped in order to gain their sympathy. Philip Andrews persuaded Dann to free his parents, but once she saw police advance on the house, Dann shot him in the chest. Andrews escaped out the back door and was rescued by police.

Dann then went to a bedroom of the house and shot herself in the mouth, taking her own life.

This shooting is not only very relevant to our community, but also was the one of the earliest school shootings.

Officer Perez, police liaison for New Trier, believes that this shooting, along with others, has had an effect on schools today and what safety measures are being taken.

For example, Hubbard Woods Elementary now has only one way to get into the school, which many schools adopted after the Laurie Dann shooting.

New Trier, took. a similar approach by having security at all entrances.

Perez urges students to always stay alert and in touch with the community around them: “Our students are our eyes and our ears. They have to be willing to say something if they see something that is off. When you start to get the ‘spidey sense’ going on, all students should pay attention to that.”

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