On the evening of August 4th 2009, some crazy, self-absorbed, adolescent-brained asshole (who happened to be 48 years old) walked into a fitness center in Pittsburgh, PA and started shooting randomly. All told, he killed at least three people beside himself.

…a moment of silence for those who were murdered…

The morning after (i.e. today, now) the Internet hive mind is piecing together the story behind this tragedy, and what we find is shockingly pathetic. The killer, George Sodini, put his crazed rantings online for all to read after his death, but this isn’t another instance of a society failing to hear these threats or to identify a cry for help. Instead, Sodini’s message was trivially encoded to be revealed only after he was dead.

Sodini’s sobfest probably started in the year 2000, when georgesodini.com was registered. The domain name is registered through August 1, 2010, meaning he had absolutely no expectation of his website being accessible more than a year after his horrible deed.

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Browsing through his website, we find all the sophistication of a late-1990s web designer, complete with the revelation that the dude was using wordpad to edit his website. To the technically un-inclined, this is a sure-fire sign that Sodini was hardly a shooting star.

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That said, it’s the site’s code comments, which are hidden from plain view, that are among the most interesting. The very first thing you see when inspecting http://georgesodini.com/ is the suggestion that a password-protected section of the website is available.

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At the bottom of the page, we can get a little taste of Sodini’s vindictive and single-minded obsession with his love-jilted past. There is some reference to several images (which are no longer online) whose names are suggestive of an ex-girlfriend. There also appears to be a direct message to someone, suggesting Sodini was sharing these pictures.

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In the middle of the home page, there is a cryptic section asking us to enter the date of Sodini’s birth and death, but this has been commented out (and is therefore inactive). Apparently, Sodini thought to move this to a separate section of the website, called “Life or Death,” which forms the magnum opus of this man’s trivial cipher.

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When the date of Sodini’s death is entered, a “hidden” page is revealed. The direct link is http://georgesodini.com/20090804.htm – which has already been published on the Intarwebs as the blog of his murder plans.

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This page is a rambling, ranting condemnation of his childhood experiences, complete with an uninterested father, domineering mother, and bully for a big brother. This would be understandable if it were coming from a 12-year-old on myspace, but the fact that it’s a 40-something tech dude at a lawfirm casts the rant in a whole other light.

The note contains all the signs of a deeply depressed individual, complete with willful self-perpetuation of the situation. Perhaps in an attempt to blame his troubles on society, Sodini closes his note with the following code comment, which is hidden from plain view:

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Yes, if only that one woman had paid attention, blah, blah, blah.

Getting to the bottom of this, the one thing I can’t believe is how someone could so effectively defeat their own aspirations. It’s almost unreal that this guy talked himself into murdering a room full of totally innocent people. What’s crazier that he believed this would be a better course of action than simply taking steps to directly address his problem.

Let’s see… maybe try speed dating? I hear people get married on World of Warcraft all the time. There’s absolutely no ambiguity that the guy was aware of what he wanted (i.e. a meaningful relationship), but the total unwillingness to try to make it happen for himself is almost heroic in the pathetic extent of its tragedy.

Since we now know Sodini wouldn’t have killed anyone if he had just said “hi” to a few women, we know this is a truly sad situation, because innocent people were killed for what is literally no reason at all. If the guy at least had some convictions, then in an anti-hero sense, there might have at least been a Hollywood aspect to this case. Instead, all we are left with is a sad, shy coward, who did everything he could to ruin other lives just so he could avoid improving his own.

This is really, really sad. My heart goes out to those lives who are affected by this man’s actions. I wish this never happened.