Destroyed computer may give look into shooter's mind

Data can sometimes be pulled from destroyed hard drives.
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Investigators hope a home computer can help shed some light on the Connecticut school shooting.

A computer belonging to the man who shot and killed 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school may hold clues to why he committed the crime, but police say the computer was heavily damaged before the shooting.

"The information contained on a hard drive could actually be duplicated in other areas," said Purdue computer forensics expert Marcus Rogers.

The school shooter smashed his computer's memory, possibly to hide his secret. But Rogers says maybe for another reason.

"Although he's dead, he still wants to live posthumously with all the media attention," Rogers said. "If he really didn't want people to know what he was doing that drive would have just disappeared."

Rogers has worked with prosecutors and police as a computer and psychological forensics expert.

He sees the shooter with a certain personality type wanting "maximum carnage and maximum attention."

Even the shooter did succeed in heavily damaging the hard drive that data could still be recovered.

"If this disc is no longer intact, it's gone, then all the information is gone," said Thom Davis with Oscar Winski e-recycling in Lafayette.

Davis says sophisticated equipment could still recover much of the data, even from broken internal platters. That's why, before crushing hard drives, he wipes them magnetically. Later they're shredded.

"Physical evidence of destruction," Davis said, holding up a bent and twisted hard drive.

The shooter's video gaming may give details not just about the violent video games he loved. Rogers says, "the online gaming systems now have the ability to have chats, texting, all kinds of social media to post things."

Also, the shooter's emails would be saved by his email provider and any e-diaries he may have kept, too.

"If you have one of these modern operating systems, a lot of that information is not stored locally. It's stored on the cloud," Rogers said.

Police can capture that information, which may be what the shooter intended all along.

"This was a very shocking, in your face, 'I'm going out with a bang and I want the whole world to remember me'," Rogers said.