Virginia Tech civil trial day 5: Steger, victim's mother take the stand - The Daily Progress: News

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Virginia Tech civil trial day 5: Steger, victim's mother take the stand

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Posted: Friday, March 9, 2012 9:29 am | Updated: 10:54 am, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

8:10 p.m.

Pryde's mother, Karen Pryde, said she learned of her daughter's death not long after walking into the Inn at Virginia Tech late in the night on April 16th.

She said her eldest daughter had beat them there and she could see in her face that Julia was dead.

Julia Pryde's brother, Keith, told the jury he had been exchanging text messages with his sister until 9:00 a.m., when she left for her advanced hydrology class in Room 206 of Norris Hall.  They had been planning a surprise party for their father.

Erin Peterson's father, Grafton Peterson, told the jury the civil action would never have been brought if his daughter had been warned after the shootings at West Ambler Johnston Hall.

The trial resumes at 8:15 a.m. on Monday morning.

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5:41 p.m.

The attorneys for the Pryde and Peterson families said they're finished presenting evidence and will likely rest their case Monday morning.

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4:03 p.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

Julia Pryde's mother, Karen Pryde, is now testifying.

She said she first learned of the shootings from watching a report on CNN.

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3:50 p.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

A grief counselor who has seen both the Pryde and Peterson families said that Erin Peterson's father, Grafton, has treated this lawsuit as his "therapy."

The counselor talked about how the Petersons had once talked themselves out of a "suicide pact."

She testified that, in her opinion, Julia Pryde's mother may be suffering from clinical depression.

She also said that Pryde's brother "just knew" that his sister had been killed on campus that day and received a speeding ticket on Interstate 81 while rushing to the scene.

Members of the Pryde and Peterson families are expected to testify in a few minutes.

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2:30 p.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

Dr. Steger has finished his testimony.

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1:18 p.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

Virginia Tech president Dr. Charles Steger said he first learned of the shootings at West Ambler Johnston Hall on April 16th at around 8 a.m. by a staffer in Burruss Hall.

Steger said he put everything in motion to convene the policy group.

Steger explained that he asked Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum if they should "send anything out," but Flinchum told him "not yet."  Steger said he took from the conversation that Flinchum wanted to gather more facts about the crime.

Steger said he wanted the policy group to work immediately on putting out a "notice."

In fact, he said the policy group put out a "notice" not a "warning."

Steger said he wanted the "notice" to be "useful."

He said the policy group decided to take the word "homicide" out of the first mass email at 9:26 a.m. that morning and replace it with "shooting incident" because they didn't want the families of the victims (which turned out to be Hilscher and Clark) to learn they had lost their children "on the radio."

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12:37 p.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

Virginia Tech president, Dr. Charles Steger, is now in the witness box.

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11:10 a.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

A couple of dispositions have been read to the jury in relation to Tech hiring two crisis communications firms in the wake of the tragedy.

One of the dispositions revealed that Steger didn't feel a public apology was appropriate following the shootings, due to the fact he felt that, given the circumstances Tech officials faced at the time, the university acted appropriately.

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9:45 a.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

Courtroom was temporarily cleared of everybody a few minutes ago.  Deputies conducted a search of the courtroom.  It's unclear why the delay happened.

The trial has resumed now.  The judge just set the evaucation of the courtroom was due to a "note that we just didn't understand."

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9:29 a.m.

From Scott Leamon, WSLS reporter at the courthouse

We begin the morning with more on Tech's decision to hire a crisis communications firm in the aftermath of the tragedy. 

We expect to hear from Virginia Tech president Dr. Charles Steger soon.

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