Female Killers · Illinois · School Violence

Woman attempts to poison acquaintances and burn down buildings, shoots at children in a classroom, kills self

May 20, 1988
Winnetka, Illinois
Laurie Dann delivers poisoned treats to acquaintances, visits an elementary school where she shoots several children, holds a man hostage, and commits suicide

Dann had a long history of mental illness, including obsessive behavior and making false police reports of assault. Some of her previous babysitting clients also complained she stole food or clothing, or damaged their homes and property.

On the morning of May 20, Dann hand-delivered tainted juice boxes and rice cereal treats to acquaintances. The juice boxes were leaking and the treats tasted odd, so few were consumed. Additionally, the snacks had been poisoned with arsenic so highly diluted that the tainted food did not cause anyone to become ill.

After dropping off the snacks, Dann visited the home of a former babysitting client to pick up two of their children. She claimed she had previously set a date to take them to a carnival, though no carnival was being held that day. She drove the children to a school she incorrectly thought her former sister-in-law’s sons attended. Dann lit a fire bomb in the school, though it was quickly found and extinguished without further incident. She then drove to the daycare provider who watched her former sister-in-law’s daughter to attempt to commit arson, but was intercepted by the staff. Dann then took the children she had supposedly taken to the carnival back to their home, coerced them into their basement along with their mother, and lit their house on fire. All three were able to escape.

Armed with 3 handguns, Dann next went to Hubbard Woods Elementary School. She pushed a boy into a restroom and shot him, though he survived. She also attempted to shoot at 2 other boys in the washroom. When her gun jammed, she threw it and the rounds of ammunition for it in the trash.

Dann’s next stop was a second grade classroom where she ordered the substitute teacher and students against a wall. The teacher refused. A struggle broke out between the adults and the substitute was able to disarm Dann of the gun she held in her hand. Dann then grabbed another gun from her waistband and fired at the students, killing Nicolas Corwin (8) and injuring another 4.

Dann fled the school, first in her car then on foot, until she reached a nearby home owned by the Andrew family. She was still brandishing her gun, but she claimed she had been raped and had shot her attacker. Dann also claimed she feared the police were after her and asked to hide in the home. The Andrews felt sympathetic and attempted to convince Dann that the police would understand the self-defense. The family also tried to get Dann to put down her guns. When she refused, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew left the house, though she ordered their 20-year-old son Philip to stay. After Mrs. Andrew left, she alerted police to the situation.

Police arrived at the Andrews’ home and, as they grew closer to the building, Dann shot Philip in the chest. He was able to escape the home and received medical attention. Dann then relocated to an upstairs bedroom. Police brought Dann’s parents and ex-husband to help coax her into surrendering, but the attempt was unsuccessful. Dann committed suicide by shooting herself in the mouth, leaving two people (including herself) dead and at least 8 injured.

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