OMAHA — The mother of Robert Hawkins, the 19-year-old who shot and killed eight people and himself at an Omaha shopping mall, says she bears responsibility for his troubled life and how he chose to end it.
In the episode of the syndicated talk show “Dr. Phil’’ that is airing Wednesday, Maribel “Molly’’ Rodriguez says Hawkins “was supposed to have been something other than a mass murderer.’’
Her son entered Westroads Mall’s Von Maur department store on Dec. 5, 2007, armed with an assault weapon that he’d taken from his stepfather’s closet. He fatally shot six store employees and two customers and wounded several others before turning the gun on himself.
Host Phil McGraw called it “a mother’s worst nightmare,’’ but said there were several warning signs leading up to the killing spree. He questioned Rodriguez about how Hawkins obtained the gun and why she didn’t act on the warning signs.
Rodriguez has said she sensed something was wrong upon returning from a brief outing to her ex-husband’s house, where she and Hawkins had eaten supper earlier the night of Dec. 4.
The stepfather was vacationing in Thailand at the time.
On Wednesday’s show, McGraw said Rodriguez was concerned enough to check whether a gun was missing from the home, but she didn’t try to confront her son until the next day. Hawkins didn’t answer her call to his cell phone.
“I made that conscious decision to ignore everything that was telling me to go and search Robert’s Jeep,’’ Rodriguez said.
McGraw also questioned Debora Maruca-Kovac, who had taken Hawkins into her home. She said she saw the gun the night before the shooting.
“I saw the gun,’’ Maruca-Kovac said. “I didn’t know what it was. Unfortunately, I’ve been desensitized to guns. All the toy guns look like real guns.’’
Jeff Schaffart, an Omaha attorney who was shot in an arm and finger, also appeared on Wednesday’s show, saying the mall tragedy could have been prevented.
“It’s clear that the Von Maur killer had a history of psychotic episodes and psychiatric problems, and yet they have this extremely dangerous military weapon just sitting in a closet unlocked in a house that this killer was allowed access to,’’ Schaffart said. “I think that’s inexcusable and beyond the pale.’’
During part of the episode, Schaffart refused to be on set with Rodriguez, but he later relented.
Rodriguez said Hawkins was 2 1/2 when she divorced his father, and that she had no contact with her son between the ages of 6 and 17.
She said her son was molested for the first three years of his life and was first put in a mental hospital at 3 1/2.
Later, Hawkins was a troubled teenager who spent four years in a series of treatment centers, group homes and foster care after threatening to kill his stepmother in 2002. He had broken up with a girlfriend and lost his job at a McDonald’s in the days before the shooting.
Gunned down were Beverly Flynn, Gary Joy, Janet Jorgensen, John McDonald, Gary Scharf, Angie Schuster, Dianne Trent and Maggie Webb.
Police found no connection between Hawkins and his targets, only a suicide note.