Accounts Differ on Question to Bernall

Columbine Shooting Victim May Not Have Been Asked Whether She Believed in God
by Dan Luzadder and Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
Rocky Mountain News Staff Writers

September 24, 1999

Investigators told Cassie Bernall's parents weeks after she died that the now-famous exchange with her killer may not have occurred.

There are questions about whether Bernall said ''yes'' after her killer, Dylan Klebold, asked whether she believed in God, said chief investigator John Kiekbusch of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

The question itself may never have been asked, he said.

''The fact that there were discrepancies in this account was brought to the attention of the Bernalls,'' Kiekbusch said.

In the days following the April 20 shootings at Columbine High, several students in the library reported the exchange between Bernall and her killer.

Accounts of the testimonial and death have inspired outpourings of faith around the country and prompted her mother, Misty Bernall, to write a book.

She Said Yes. The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall has sold more than 200,000 copies since its release two weeks ago.

Misty Bernall could not be reached for comment. But her editor, Chris Zimmerman, said Bernall stands behind the book.

''We don't feel that this discussion ... takes anything away from the crux of Cassie's story,'' said. ''This is a book about a troubled American teen-ager who changed. She changed to the extent that she was ready to face the challenges of her life, and her death, with confidence.''

Zimmerman said Misty Bernall had been candid in the book that there were differing accounts of what was said in the library.

It was discrepancies in student accounts that led police to question the Bernall testimonial.

Joshua Lapp, a junior, was one of the first students to report Bernall's testimonial of faith. He said his memories have not changed.

''She said it,'' Lapp said Thursday. ''Plain and simple.''

But Emily Wyant, 16, tells a different story.

She was crouched beneath a table less than two feet from Cassie Bernall when Dylan Klebold shot her.

They were the only two students studying together at the table in the back of the library.

Wyant told FBI investigators that she never heard Klebold ask Cassie if she believed in God.

Wyant said Cassie was praying out loud after the gunmen stormed the library.

''She was saying, 'Dear God. Dear God. Why is this happening? I just want to go home,' '' Emily said.

Emily answered Cassie in a hushed voice.

''I know. We all want to get out of here.''

Emily wonders whether Klebold heard Cassie praying and singled her out.

All of a sudden, he slammed the top of their table, said ''Peekaboo, '' and looked under the table at both girls.

''Then he looked at her, and he shot her,'' Emily said.

Klebold then glanced quickly at Emily.

She does not know why he didn't shoot her. She thinks he may have gotten distracted.

Emily heard Eric Harris call to Klebold.

''Hey, there's a n----- over here,'' Harris said.

Then both gunmen trained their weapons on Isaiah Shoels.

Police investigating the shooting have detailed minute aspects of the case, including who said what to whom in the school library, and elsewhere, during the rampage.

Kiekbusch said the first account of the conversation between Klebold and Bernall came from Craig Scott, the brother of Rachel Scott, a student who was killed by the gunmen outside the school.

Craig Scott, who was among more than 50 students in the library at the time, told investigators he heard the ''Yes'' comment and recognized the voice as Cassie Bernall's. He did not actually see the individuals involved.

Scott could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Investigators said Scott was asked to point out where the gunmen were at the time, and he indicated a table where Valeen Schnurr-not Bernall was hiding.

According to Schnurr's mother, the girl was lying in the library with more than 15 bullet wounds, praying out loud, when a gunman approached her and asked if she believed in God, and she responded ''Yes, I believe in God.''

The gunman spared her, and she survived.

Copyright © 1999, Denver Publishing Co.

Graphic Rule