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Friday, January 19, 2007

Update: Fellow students say slaying suspect was an outcast

John Odgren dusts fingerprints during a summer crime scene forensics class at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner
(Worcester Telegram & Gazette file photo)


Sixteen-year-old John Odgren earlier this school year participated in a lab experiment for his forensic sciences class in which students used lead pipes and toy knives to splatter red corn-syrup ‘‘blood’’ against pieces of paper.

Yesterday, investigators from the State Police Crime Laboratory in Sudbury were conducting similar tests on the blood of Odgren’s 15-year-old classmate, James Alenson, which was spattered in a boy’s bathroom at Lincoln-Sudbury High School.

‘‘It’s so strange thinking about that now,’’ said one of Odgren’s lab partners for the experiment. ‘‘It’s real.’’’

Odgren appeared to have few friends, but would boast to anyone within earshot that he had a collection of weapons and that he knew about Internet sites where weapons could be purchased, said Brianna Hodge, 16, a junior.

Odgren, who called himself ‘‘Jack’’ at school, sometimes wore trench coats, and often wore a fedora and small, round black sunglasses indoors, schoolmates said.

Katie Crowley, also a junior, said that Odgren’s manner of dress — especially his trenchcoat — made him the object of frequent jokes students told about the possibility that he might go on a rampage similar to the Columbine High School massacre. The Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, often wore long overcoats and had dubbed themselves the ‘‘Trenchcoat Mafia’’ before killing 12 fellow students and a teacher and wounding 23 others at the Colorado high school in 1999.

No one is laughing now, Crowley said.

‘‘Who would honestly be like, ‘I want to go out and kill someone,’’’ she said.

Hodge said Odgren would follow girls around and make inappropriate comments.

‘‘He wasn’t quite a stalker, but he kept asking my friend out, very persistent, very creepy,’’ Hodge said. ‘‘He just wouldn’t take no for an answer.’’

Odgren’s lab partner said he had frequently asked her out to lunch, but that his frequent questions to their forensic science teacher about ‘‘the best way to cover up a murder’’ and his talk about weapons had put her off. She mostly tried to avoid him, she said.

At Odgren’s arraignment in Framingham Juvenile Court yesterday, defense attorney Jonathan Shapiro of Boston said his client suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, as well as a hyperactivity disorder and that he had been taking medication for both in recent years.

Children with Asperger’s are often bright and articulate but often have trouble relating to peers because they become fixated on seemingly random topics and talk about them obsessively.

That tendency, known as ‘‘monologuing,’’ combined with an inability to read the facial cues for boredom or annoyance of those they are talking to, often results in Asperger’s children being unable to form peer friendships, specialists said.

Although friends said that Odgren’s fixation seemed to be on killing and weapons, specialists said children with Asperger’s are not generally violent.

Yesterday, two police cars were parked in front of the driveway of the Odgren home on Ball Hill Road in Princeton. Police officers said the family was not speaking to the media.

-- Ralph Ranalli

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