Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui went on eBay less than a month before the massacre to buy ammunition clips for one of the two handguns he used in the rampage.
The online auction site lists the purchase date of the empty clips as March 22, about three weeks before the attack in which Cho, 23, killed 32 people and himself at the university in Blacksburg on Monday.
EBay spokesman Hani Durzy said the purchase of the clips from a web vendor based in Idaho was legal and that the company had co-operated with authorities.
“In looking at his activity on the site, we can confirm that at no point that he used eBay to purchase any guns and ammunition,” Durzy said. “It is strongly against eBay policy to try to sell guns and ammunition.”
A search warrant affidavit stated that investigators wanted to search Cho’s email accounts, including the address Blazers5505hotmail.com, which Durzy confirmed was Cho’s.
Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said investigators were “aware of the eBay activity that mirrors” the Hotmail account. Attempts to reach the Idaho dealer were unsuccessful.
Cho also used the eBay account to sell many books about violence, death and mayhem. Several of those books were used in his English classes.
Cho sold the books on the eBay-affiliated site half.com. They include Men, Women, and Chainsaws by Carol J Clover, a book that explores gender in the modern horror film.
Others include The Best of HP Lovecraft: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre, and The Female of the Species: Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates – a book in which the publisher writes: “In these and other gripping and disturbing tales, women are confronted by the evil around them and surprised by the evil they find within themselves.”
Books by those three authors were taught in his contemporary horror class.
Experts say things like eBay transactions can be hugely valuable in trying to learn the motivation behind crimes.
An examination of a computer is “very revealing, particularly for a person like this”, says Mark Rasch of FTI Consulting, a computer and electronic investigation firm.
“What we find ... particularly with people who are very uncommunicative in person, is that they may be much more communicative and free to express themselves with the anonymity that computers and the internet give you.”
Authorities also are examining the personal computers found in Cho’s dorm room and seeking his mobile phone records.
One question they hope to answer is whether Cho had any e-mail contact with Emily Hilscher, one of the first two victims. Investigators plan to search her Virginia Tech email account.
Authorities say Cho had a history of sending menacing text messages and other communications – written and electronic.
Cho’s computer could hold a record of just about anything he has done, even of activities or communications he may have tried to erase. But Rasch said that would probably not be a problem, noting the way the gunman created a record of his thinking in videos, photos and documents.
“This guy wanted to leave a trail. He wasn’t trying to conceal what he did,” Rasch said.