(PA) Student kills himself at school with father's gun


June 14, 2003, 12:29 PM
Student kills himself at school with father's gun
Saturday, June 14, 2003 Posted: 9:18 AM EDT (1318 GMT)

WELLSBORO, Pennsylvania (AP) -- As he waited with his tractor-trailer to pick up a load of coal from a mine, David W. Roby used his cell phone for what would be his last conversation with his 12-year-old son. Before they hung up, he made sure Davey was getting ready for school and said he loved him.

An hour later the camouflage-clad fifth-grader was dying on a school bathroom floor of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Seven of his father's guns and hundreds of bullets were strewn around him.

Although relatives said they saw no warning signs, Davey's classmates told police that he was picked on by other pupils and had talked for months about killing students and teachers at the 548-student Rock L. Butler Middle School.

Roby, 44, is left with a heartache that won't go away and, like others in this picturesque community 15 miles south of the New York state line in central Pennsylvania, more questions than answers.

"We wonder if there was something going on inside that we just couldn't see," the father said Thursday, three days after the funeral.

The shooting, the third school suicide in Pennsylvania in two months, took place shortly before the start of classes on June 4. Three friends who had been in the bathroom with Davey left when they saw the guns, and school officials say one of them went to tell staff members.

After a fifth-grade teacher looked into the bathroom and confirmed Davey had the guns, the school started an emergency lockdown. A police officer responding to the call was about 30 feet from the bathroom when the boy put a Colt .45 handgun to the side of his head and pulled the trigger.

"We all heard a gunshot but everyone thought it was thunder," said 13-year-old sixth-grader Kristen Smith, who said Davey was "really shy" and got picked on because he weighed nearly 170 pounds.

The three other boys were stunned to see the arsenal Davey pulled from his father's scuba-diving bag that morning, said Tioga County District Attorney John F. Cowley. Authorities believe the other boys had not signed on to any school-attack plan, he said.

"I think in the end a scared little boy took his life because he was just cornered and he didn't know what to do," Roby said.

Roby believes that his son was acting out a child's fantasy and didn't intend to hurt anyone. He also suspects the other boys had indeed been part of the planning, citing the number of weapons involved as well as an incident in his own office the night before.

Davey and another boy were role-playing an espionage game with toy guns and ski masks. The game may have been practice for an assault on the school the next morning, the father said.

Roby said he does not blame the other boys for Davey's death. "These kids are devastated. I took time (at the funeral) to hug them and tell them that there's no hard feelings."

A hunter like many others in Tioga County, Roby enrolled his son in a hunter-safety course and made sure his own weapons were locked up. But in a fateful twist, he hung the key on a wall hook after finding it underneath the couch just two days earlier.

Roby speculated that after he left the house, Davey used the key to take the two handguns, three rifles, two shotguns and ample ammunition.

"He chose what I would say were his favorite firearms. He wasn't afraid to shoot the big guns and he liked them," Roby said.

The father felt he could trust his son, who he described as an obedient boy who spent the night before his death doing laundry and other chores.

But the file from his parents' 1997 divorce at the county courthouse indicates Davey received psychiatric treatment and that his mother expressed concerns about "psychotic" and "uncontrollable" violent outbursts.

The mother, Sharon Peet of Middlebury Center, did not return several telephone messages this week. Phone messages left with Roby on Friday seeking comment on the divorce records were not immediately returned.

Father and son lived alone in an unincorporated village known as Broughton Hollow, next-door to remnants of a propane business that Roby's father once operated.

An average student, Davey played sports, was active in a church youth group, loved fishing, and had recently discovered a passion and talent for go-cart racing. He won a third-place trophy during his first race.

Although Davey enjoyed playing "Metal Gear Solid," a commando-themed video game, his interests had lately evolved toward car-racing and flight-simulation games, his father said.

Davey did not leave a note, and a police examination of his computer and reading habits turned up no obvious clues about his reason for killing himself.

"You never can (tell) with a suicide, really," said Tioga County Coroner James Wilson. "Somebody's pretty desperate."


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Standing Wolf
June 14, 2003, 08:02 PM
When I was a junior in high school, the guy whose locker was immediately to the left of mine shot himself with a .22 caliber rifle. I've known several other suicides since then.

I've come to believe there are no answers: only questions.

June 14, 2003, 09:02 PM
That's really sad.:(

June 14, 2003, 09:09 PM
A sad tale but as with most suicides a cowardly one as well.

June 15, 2003, 12:05 AM
A permanent end to a temporary problem. :(

June 15, 2003, 01:59 AM
Although Davey enjoyed playing "Metal Gear Solid," a commando-themed video game...

I like that.... Too bad they didn't know...

Metal Gear Solid is an espionage-themed video game. You get the highest score if you don't kill anyone.

I'm not trying to seem apathetic. I just see the media trying to connect things with a slight of hand.

June 15, 2003, 02:19 AM
Although relatives said they saw no warning signs, Davey's classmates told police that he was picked on by other pupils and had talked for months about killing students and teachers at the 548-student Rock L. Butler Middle School.

Looks like the warning signs were there, evidently no one took them very seriously. Very sad, no one wins.

June 15, 2003, 06:00 AM
The question I ask myself is what could be done? Kids(and some adults) can be very mean and insensitive to each other in our culture and often times the solution(s) available are not a cure. Talking to an adult or seeking assistance more often than not is a temporary fix and can often make the problem/embrassment worse. School age kids tend to be insecure about their self-worth and act this out by preying on anyone who may be a little different. Sadly, a 70 lb overweight 10 year old boy would be a prime target for verbal abuse from his speers. So the warning signs were there, so what. Was David likely to lose 70+ pounds, gain self-esteem and solve the problem? Were his speers suddenly "going to see the light and take the high road?".

I was taught (and I believe) that suicide is an escape from pain, it's an action of last resort. Recently a mountain climber cut his arm off to make his escape, was that cowardly? What effective advise is their for the 1000's of kids out there right now experiencing David's pain? Do you suspend half the school who makes fun of them? Maybe we need to teach a course to our kids (and some adults) dealing with self esteem and people appreciation. Deeds are what SHOULD count, not pleasing looks or speech. I wonder how much abuse Gandi would have to put up with in our modern day schools? Talk about being different!

June 15, 2003, 09:04 AM
This is very very sad.................a permanent solution to a temporary problem is ssssssssoooooooooo accurate. Its a shame that kids feel a pressure that some cant discuss with their parents....
If the school environment, kids and teachers, knew of his suicidal tendancies and didnt alert the father..........thats truely tragic.
It makes me sick to think a 13 year old boy considers himself desperate enough to take himself out..............
Shoot well

June 15, 2003, 09:53 AM
With the other school shootings that have happened I can't believe they didn't take this more seriously considering the signs.

June 15, 2003, 10:56 AM
no answers, only questions,,,that sums it up for me too

its too bad kids can't get around picking on the weak ones because this is what it can lead to

the 12 yo step-daughter i talk about once in a while gets picked on a lot. her problem is she retaliates immediately and then ends up being the one in trouble.

took a while to make the "educators" grasp that concept

recently another little girl was caught passing a note SPECIFICALLY concerning how she and the girl she was passing it to were going to set up our kid and get her in trouble again.

that opened a few eyes, finally

anyhow the other reason i wanted to post is to mention guns locked up with keys, one slip up with the keys and this is what can occur.

i have a combination lock on mine and there only one person in the whole world that knows the combo

me, in my head

thats the only way i can feel those guns will NEVER EVER EVER leave without my knowledge

and i know that doesnt mean they cant be burglarized, if someone REALLY wants something you have we all know they can most likely get it

sorry to see yet another tragic story like this


Kentucky Rifle
June 15, 2003, 11:25 AM
A long time ago, when I was in high school, there was a very popular guy in the class just a year in front of me. He seemed to have everything. In his freshman year of college, he hung himself from a foul ball post on the baseball diamond. Nobody could ever figure out why. I still think about him.
I have this "need" to figure out things, but sometimes the answers go with the person. Sad, very sad.


June 15, 2003, 10:58 PM
A little cold calling this a cowardly act. It's an act of desperation -- let's leave our personal feelings out it. Very tragic that this boy felt there was no way out. More tragic that it took something like this for the school to recognize the problem.

June 16, 2003, 01:33 AM
I don't think it was cold. I feel for the kid, I've been there. I never heard the end of it at school. It's a tragedy. But I call it like I see it. If that offended anyone then I apologize.

June 16, 2003, 01:55 AM
I dont feel sorry for people who kill themselves...

Same way I dont feel sorry for drunk drivers who get in a wreck and kill themselves...

People who think that killing themselves solves problems are people that I dont want to know anyhow. These are people that cant deal with the stresses of everyday life...because maybe they werent wired correctly.

And if this sounds cold...you are right it is...too bad...that is the way I feel.

I feel sorry for the people who fight to hold on to their lives, yet loose them anyhow...Like my 19 year old cousin who died of cancer....Never once did she put a pistol in her mouth.

People need to sack up, and stop taking the easy way out.

June 16, 2003, 03:30 AM
People need to sack up, and stop taking the easy way out.

That is really easy for us to say as adults, but this is about a 12 year old boy. I agree with you to a certain extent, however the perspective of a person that young doesn't extend much past daily life. Who knows how long he was overwhelmed with self-doubt or even self-hatred.

I remember a girl in elementary school that kids picked on constantly for years. Her parents finally moved her to a different school. Whether she was "wired correctly" or not, she was put down for almost half of her life. That had to have been pretty damaging to her physche.

June 16, 2003, 08:03 AM
or was so sick and tired of it all and saw no other way out

he obviously had plans of taking a few of his tormentors with him

i still can't believe that after all thats happened like this in the past already and with the "new awareness" of this problem that he went around yakking about it and not one person thought to take note of it or one kid to mention it to a teacher or something.

arrin will change his views once he has a kid or two roaming around...

June 16, 2003, 09:30 AM
feanaro said: A sad tale but as with most suicides a cowardly one as well.

Yes that littel boy should have been brave, just like everyone here. :uhoh: :banghead:

Carlos Cabeza
June 16, 2003, 10:44 AM
Seems the kid got what he wanted. Had safety training yet disobeyed the rules he was taught. Took them to school ! :banghead: What a load to say "poor little victimized 170 lb. kid " Kids can be so cruel to anyone "different" in the slightest way. Self esteem and self confidence are values that are instilled in kids by their parents and through other sources such as church.
:rolleyes: Everybody is different, skinny kids grow up to be horse racing jockeys, Big, heavy kids, linebackers for winning college football teams.

June 16, 2003, 11:15 AM
Several groups are at fault here, and I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the school administration.

How blind do those overpaid babysitters have to be not to see the problems going on around them?

Oh wait, its not in their contract. They don't have to care because its not in their course load.

All that had to happen was for one of those adults (apparently they are responsible and highly educated) to intervene. But that didn't happen.

I hope the entire staff feels the guilt for a long, long time.

When it comes to schools, its always about the money. Its never about the kids.

June 16, 2003, 12:28 PM
Lots of good guidance around here :rolleyes:

I thought the whole "cowardice" business went out with the last century. Suicide is hardly an easy solution. In fact, I would expect shooting yourself takes a fair amount of courage. You are, after all, facing the final curtain. I'd never have the guts to do it.

June 16, 2003, 12:52 PM
Very sad ... don't know what else to say. :(

June 16, 2003, 04:51 PM
You can say what you will but suicide is selfish(In most cases anyways). You might not hurt yourself but you will forever scar your friends and family. He was a child however and he might not have understood that.

As for suicide requiring courage it depends on which side you view it from. On the one hand you have to have courage to kill yourself. But what requires greater courage, IMO, is to carry on. If you have reached the stage where you think death is better, then you must think life is much harder than death.

Again I am not unsympathetic, I've been there and I think it's sad. But I think it's sad because he could have been helped and he left friends and family who will hurt for a long time because of him.


June 16, 2003, 05:57 PM
Im with Feanaro, but I dont feel sorry for the boy...I feel sorry for the people that loved him....the people that he was too self centered to think about.

June 16, 2003, 06:50 PM
Well for those that think this kid wasn't deserving of sympathy -- stay the Hell out of grief counseling -- please....

When I tried to kill myself, three times, I didn't think about anything or anyone but ending the pain. I'd say this boy was pretty scared and looking for help and chose the wrong solution. In the age of MCAS should it really surprise us by their lack of interest? Schools care more about a meaningless test than the emotional and social well being of children. I agree with Cosmoline that it does take courage to take your life but it's sadly misplaced. To think that at 12 years old, he already felt he future was empty. Perhaps venting to a counselor or friends might have helped, maybe he tried. then again, maybe his "friends" were of a similar mind set to a couple of posters here -- and felt he should have sucked it up and that compassion is wasted on the weak...

4v50 Gary
June 16, 2003, 10:15 PM
Students should be encouraged to report harassment to their teachers and counselors. Instead of taking it out on his tormentors, he killed himself. Tragic that the kid didn't turn to anyone for help.

June 16, 2003, 10:18 PM
Instead of taking it out on his tormentors, he killed himself.

That's actually a very good way to look at it, I suppose. The problem with reporting such things to the "adults" is that nothing is ever done, at least from my experiance. Even if something is done the child is again singled out as a snitch.

June 16, 2003, 10:34 PM
Instead of taking it out on his tormentors, he killed himself.
I'd say, instead, that he took it out on his tormentors by killing himself.


A suicide kills two people . . . that’s what it’s for. -- Arthur Miller

June 17, 2003, 01:23 AM
Very sad story.

June 17, 2003, 03:25 AM
I agree with Cosmoline and Mastrogiacomo. I can totally identify with this kid--that's what much of grade school/ junior high was like for me. I didn't have the resolve (if you can call it that) to kill myself, although I will admit I wanted to several times. Even to this day, when joking around with friends and a remark about a physical trait is made, it still stings. :fire:
Fortunately, though, I had a couple of advantages this boy didn't: 1) My dad (due to my mother, who never liked guns) kept his rifle under strict lock and key, and 2) we moved around a bit. I know that most of you would say that moving is just as good as running away from your problems, but in reality, it's not the running that brings relief...it's the satisfaction gained in knowing that you get to start over again, with people that will always really care about you (family) and that where you are going, you have no reputation that you "need" to defend or build.
I'm wondering what's going to happen to the tormentors. Nothing, I suppose...:banghead:

Clearly I remember pickin' on the boy
Seemed a harmless little f***
But we unleashed a lion...
How could I forget?
And he hit me with a surprise left
My jaw left hurtin', ooh, dropped wide open
Just like the day, oh, like the day I heard...
-Pearl Jam, "Jeremy" from the album Ten

June 17, 2003, 07:16 AM
I'm sure if they're anything like the kids we were tormented by in school -- they don't realize they share responsiblity and lack the moral fiber to care. :(

June 17, 2003, 10:02 AM
I grew up in PA and was always a little bit different. I never fit in because I never wanted to fit in. I liked being my own person doing my own thing. Some people can't do that though.

The kid was only 12 years old. I didn't know anything at that age. How could anyone expect this kid to comprehend his thoughts and actions? He and his friends were all far too young to have any idea about the finality of death.

Sad... I feel for his parents and friends and everyone who knew him.

Carlos Cabeza
June 17, 2003, 10:07 AM
For some, the spirit is broken by the tormentor, others, it only strengthens it.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Please, no more lame analytical approach to the obvious.
Finger off that trigger !
Do not point the weapon at anything you are not willing to destroy.
Given the amount of weapons and ammunition the kid had its a fortunate lot that no other people were hurt or killed and we had ANOTHER school shooting.

June 17, 2003, 11:56 AM
I had a childhood friend who hung himself when he went to Junior High. It was a very prestigious private school that he had to work hard to get into and his parents paid big bucks to enroll him in. You just never know. He must have been in some private hell that he figured there was only one way out of. A very sad thing for the parents who must have reguessd every moment of the kid's life. Some say it's cowardly and selfish. I used to think that too, but as I grow older, I'm in no place to judge what goes on in the mind of a suicidal person. It can't be normal. It's just sad.

June 17, 2003, 03:54 PM
A graduate of my HS several years ahead of me killed himself his first or second year of college. Very foolish. A few months before he'd written that his HS latin teacher had had, of all the people he knew, the most influence on him. Said teacher (X) shared that with us in class so that we might make our own judgements about the worth of X's teaching. I've found it kind of strange; X was one of the truly inspiring teachers at the school.

Maybe if you're over 50 and have no family, if you're still depressed at that point go ahead and throw yourself off a bridge to avoid creating a disturbance in society by forcing people to clean up the mess. Nobody really knows anything about life for certain, so how can they possibly make any judgements about whether it's worth living for - especially at a young age? It just boggles the mind.

Nobody really knows anything about life, ever, so if someone is going to make, as Camus calls it, the only serious philosophical choice, death being the exclusion of life but not vice versa, you'd better choose it with solid empirical evidence backing up your decision. Empirical evidence takes many decades to collect, not 2 or 3.

June 17, 2003, 07:42 PM
I can't comment on a 13 yr old other than i was really picked on in school and i never thought "oh ya - lets end it now!". Everyone is different tho so its hard to say what any one person should think.

Into the future i can say i finally have some insight into depression - i didn't know what it was... and am a firm believer that one CAN'T know what it is till they been there - and I pray that none of you every get there.

For me the defining moment I was sitting in bed w/ a drink and a smoke and a cocked and locked HK USP Compact. Debating on what it would mean, was there a future to care about, and if anything mattered at all. That is when the gf's 14 yr old walked into the house. He shouldn't have been there, he was meant to be at his Grandparents house. I decocked the gun and hid it under the blankets, got him to bed... retrieved the gun and walked to put it away. On the way there was one of those really huge mirrors in the bathroom - pointed the gun at my reflection and started to pull the trigger. I didn't mean for it to go off.. but of course it did. And there I stood looking at a neat (if cracked) hole in my own head...

Boomfuzzled and feeling REALLY odd at that time my body moved into reaction mode... ANYONE in the house would have heard the gun fire so i stashed the gun in the closet and calmed the child down and got him back into bed, went back and "safed" the gun. Next day bright and early i got the glass people out to replace the mirror... but they wouldn't be out till the next day. That is when i got the call that my gf was checking herself out of the Mental hospital. And here is her house w/ a gun shot hole through the mirror wall and wall and imbedded bits of Hydrashok in the cabniets beyond.

Yes - suicide is the ultimate in selfishness - because your actions (if you don't believe in life after death) have no consequences to YOU, and in that state of mind - you don't give a rats behind about anyone else. You can't ever know it unless you have been there, and once again I pray none of you ever have to be there.

I made a pact w/ myself since then, those are generally the strongest kind, I will never be in that place again - i don't care if i have to wipe out all of castle wolfenstien, or blow away fourty milk jugs, or run 50 miles or WHATEVER it takes to get my mind off what ever it is that threatens, its a battle in my head that i can't win w/ pills or booze or for that matter - a firearm.

Do i have sympathy for the kid - ya.... a lot about how you make it out of school has to do w/ yer wireing and any adjustments your parents have made.

Do i blame schools or call them overpaid (:what: ) - na... they do what they can w/ what they have. Don't believe me go try to be a teacher instead of giving hypothetical theory's about what they are capable of.

My cousin killed himself when i was 12... i cried for 2 days - they found notes and junk - nothing that explained anything - like one poster said - all it brings is questions - no answers.

At any rate - i prattle a lil too much for my 2nd post =)


June 17, 2003, 08:21 PM
A 12 year old fifth grader? I was in the eighth grade the day I turned 13. Usually it's not the older kids who get picked on. Although it was the opposite with me, because I was a little younger I was always getting into fights and trying to prove how tough I was.

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