by Brent Hovey

Reporter

Aurora -- Phil Chalmers was shocked by the shootings at Virginia Tech, but not necessarily surprised.

"The fact the highest school shooting toll we ever had prior to Virginia Tech was 12 [at Columbine] was miraculous," said Chalmers.

"The culture we raise kids in today is that death is everywhere. It's time to wake up and go back to when we really protected our kids."

The Aurora resident has just written a book called "Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer." He's been working on it since the early 1990s and it is due for release Nov. 10, 2008.

In it, Chalmers tells first-hand stories from actual teens in prison for murder. He discusses why and how some teens turn into killers, how to identify warning signs, how parents and teachers can protect themselves and their children and how, as a country, we can slow or stop this growing trend.

The biggest question Chal-mers tries to answer is "why?"

"I have it boiled down to 10 reasons," he said. "But in one sentence, our kids are raised today in a culture of death. Everywhere around them is death, murder and bloodshed."

Chalmers, a full-time realtor with the Chalmers Group of Remax, has been writing for and speaking to kids since 1985.

He writes a couple of hours in the evening after his day of selling homes, and speaks in person once or twice a month.

CHALMERS got the idea for the book when he was seeing lots of school shootings and asking himself -- like many in America -- "why is this happening? How can I stop this?"

"I was watching TV and reading articles, and all the experts were saying they can't figure out why," he said. "I decided to take it on the way I normally do -- with an investigative approach and start communicating with actual killers."

For the last 10 years, he has been corresponding and writing letters to convicted teen killers and school shooters.

"Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer" is co-authored by Luke Woodham, who is the convicted school shooter in Pearl, Miss.

According to Chalmers' book, on Oct. 1, 1997, Woodham killed his mother with a baseball bat, shot two classmates and injured seven others.

But Chalmers has communicated with more than 200 convicted teen killers. "There are actually 2,000 shootings a year and close to 15,000 in the last 10 years," he said.

Chalmers sends letters to the teens and explains what he is doing. He said about 50 percent of the convicted say they want to share their stories to try to help other kids.

And that's what Chalmers hopes to do -- help kids.

"The book is directed at the general public, but we hope teenagers will read it," he said. "There are a lot of potential school shooters and teen killers right now on our streets.

"The biggest thing I'm hoping to communicate to them is there's a cost. Once the bright lights and the TV cameras shut down, it's just you and prison forever."

IDENTIFYING potential school shooters is tough to do.

"There was day when killers were psychotic like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, but today's are pretty scary. They're in our schools and workplaces," Chalmers said.

But it's just as hard to identify where and when a school shooting could take place. Chalmers said it could happen in Aurora.

"You talk to people around town and the schools and a lot of people have the mentality it could never happen around here," he said.

"But they said it would never happen at Columbine, a nice and well-to-do community. They said it would never happen at Virginia Tech, a closeknit campus. Upper-class or rural; it doesn't matter."

Chalmers said he wants to see tougher laws on violence in the entertainment industry, tougher drug laws and more help for kids in poverty or in gangs and cults.

"I think America's asleep when it comes to this topic," Chalmers said. "We seem to be surprised this is happening. With education, people can make their own decisions. If they want to take action, they can."

"Inside the Mind of a Teen Killer," which is published by Thomas Nelson Publishing, will be available in stores or online. Chalmers said the publisher is already talking about a documentary film based on the book in 2009.

E-mail: bhovey@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3155