Parents
Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold

Long after I created the first draft of this page (2004), Sue Klebold published her wonderful memoir, A Mother's Reckoning. So this page is somewhat moot: you should just go read Sue's excellent book, and/or google the many interviews she did when it came out. (Here's my Vanity Fair piece on Sue's first interview, with Diane Sawyer.) However, that leaves three other parents, so I'm keeping this page, to help readers with them.

Update Feb 2017: Sue Klebold posted a brave and insightful TED Talk:

Sue Klebold TED Talk, Columbine Dylan Klebold, A Mother's Reckoning

Eric and Dylan's parents provoke the most debate at my events, yet unfortunately, this will be the shortest section on the site. That's because Wayne & Kathy Harris, and Tom & Sue Klebold were vilified after the attack, and responded rationally: with brief written statements and then silence.

I would earnestly love to learn more from them but I understand their position. (A few days after the Virginia Tech tragedy, I published a New York Times op-ed suggesting a different approach with the parents there, hoping for a different outcome.)

The bottom line is a dearth of information, in comparison to the rest of the case. However, if you dig a bit—and I certainly have—some really useful information has come to light about them. It will be outlined here.

Published articles

There have been only three significant articles:

David Brooks' 2004 New York Times column, Parents of a Killer.

It was based on a long conversation Brooks had with Tom and Sue Klebold. The column format limited it to about 800 words, but Brooks chose them wisely. It is an incisive, empathetic column, not to be missed.

Susan Klebold's 2009 essay for O, The Oprah Magazine, I Will Never Know Why.

You won't get closer to the source than this. Dylan's mom wrote a candid, articulate, 5,000-word essay. It had two primary topics, which just happen to be the two I get asked about the parents most:1) What did she and Tom see in Dylan before the murders, and 2) What has their life been like for the next ten years? She did a masterful job at both. It's required reading for anyone interested in the case. But brace yourself: it's heartbreaking.

A very few critics complained that the piece was not revealing enough. I find that absurd. We can wish she and Tom had some magic insights, but the reality is that the vast majority of teen suicides take their parents by surprise—whether or not they kill other people on the way out. None of the prominent psychologists I worked with on the case expected the Harris or Klebold parents to hold great surprises. They considered that possible, but not probable.

 

I find Sue credible and sincere. Her perspective of a mom who sees the severity of her son's depression only in retrospect is invaluable. Read it.

My 2010 Daily Beast essay, The Last Columbine Mystery.

It's a reported piece, based on my interviews with Bob Curnow and Linda Mauser. Bob met with both the Harris and Klebold parents. Linda and her husband Tom met with the Harrises and Tom also met with the Klebolds. These are the only known meetings between the parents of the killers and victims. I reported on all four meetings in the Afterword to the paperback edition of the book, and focused on the Harrises in this article I adapted for the Daily Beast.

Books

Andrew Solomon's excellent, Far From The Tree.

Sue Klebold's A Mother's Reckoning.

Other fragmentary information

I found all sorts of other bits of information about the parents, particularly the Klebolds. Sources included: the questionnaires they filled out for the Diversion program, Wayne's journal on Eric released by Jeffco, the police file on the single interview between the Klebolds and investigators, my interviews with Lead Investigator Kate Battan about that meeting, and interviews with people close to the families—some conducted by me, others in published accounts by journalists I trust.

Tom and Sue Klebold also agreed through their attorney to fact-check a list of information I compiled prior to publication of the book. In that process, they also added a few details here and there, through their attorney.

Origin story

Columbine book, Parkland, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold

Contact

Dave Cullen
Media Inquiries

© Dave Cullen 2019 / dave@davecullen.com

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"Like Capote's In Cold Blood, this tour de force gets below the who and what of a horrifying incident to lay bare the devastating why."

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