The ladies’ man was no more. The witty, self-deprecating lug who’d strutted his smarts on the Internet had long succumbed.
Now there sat Chris Calmer in an easy chair at the house where he lived with his retired parents and 95-year-old grandmother ... in reality.
Pasty, bloated, minus a tooth ... with a loaded gun in his hand.
It is possible that debilitating, chronic pain and migraines had shoved him to the brink, and the time had come for the 46-year-old man he really was to die.
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If his mind was right, he surely knew that death was in the offing, because you do not point a pistol at a cop and expect to live.
Yet that is what Calmer did, or is accused of doing, in an apparent suicidal blur on the evening of Sept. 13.
A Monroe County sheriff’s deputy -- one of two sent to a disturbance call at the Calmer home near Bolingbroke, a dozen miles southeast of Forsyth -- showed up at his door.
Calmer allegedly shot Deputy Michael Norris, fatally wounding him.
Then came a gun battle with the other deputy, Norris’ backup -- another chance for Calmer to die.
Calmer is thought to have emptied his .40-caliber pistol, injuring Deputy Jeff Wilson before surrendering.
Was Calmer trying to force the cops to put him out of his misery? Had more than a decade of physical agony rendered his life worthless? Had Calmer planned to take someone with him, to kill and then kill himself? Or was his aim to survive and emerge as the latest nutbag to burst from the pained shadows and inflict his personal hell on anyone within reach?
What’s more, how could an avowed gun control advocate like Calmer choose to shoot someone?
There are no hard, fast answers.
But there is something.
Because Calmer, if he is a killer, did what very few killers do.
He wrote the story of the man he hoped to be, pretended to be ... or was.
* * *
It was November 2003.
Calmer logged onto an Internet message board.
The topic? Gun control, which he favored.
The “guns don’t kill people, people do” argument was flawed, he wrote. “It’s actually a combination of the two. So let’s stop both!”
There is “no cure for ‘dumbasses,’” he went on, so the next best thing is to “take away their guns.”
Calmer reflected on the famous Washington, D.C., sniper case the previous fall. He deemed shooting someone with a gun “too easy.”
“Even a child can shoot someone,” he wrote. “Point, shoot, head explodes.”
* * *
When Calmer and his first wife, Sandy, split up in 1993 after three and a half years of marriage, their divorce was unremarkable except for one thing.
The record of their union’s “irretrievable breakdown” listed the division of their property.
She got the TV.
He got the computer.
It was fitting in hindsight. Computers would consume the next two decades of his life. Not only would they lend him his career, they would become an outlet, a place he shared his most private, unfiltered thoughts.
A Telegraph reporter searching a database of his residential addresses found email addresses Calmer used. A Google search of the email addresses led to an electronic trove of Calmer’s observations and philosophies. All told, more than half a million words -- enough to fill five or six novels. All about him.
None of his nearly 6,500 Internet posts foretold of killing a cop. What they offered instead was a window into his personality -- or, perhaps, the one he wanted the world to see.
Calmer, who turns 47 this week, worked as an information technology manager and consultant for well-known companies from New York to Colorado.
He bounced job to job for the past 20 years.
He said he earned $300,000 one year, half that other years.
He boasted of flying airplanes, driving fast cars, dating worldly women.
When he first appeared on message boards in fall 2003 using the online handle “ScorLibran,” Calmer said he was “on the prowl,” scoping out love interests.
He bragged about his brains, his BMW coupe, computers, and was a sly flatterer. He once told an apparent female who’d posted a photo, “If your IQ matches your beauty, then it’s over 10,000 points.”
Over the years, but mostly in the middle 2000s, he shared personal information that clearly identifies him as the author of his posts.
He shared photos of himself and his birth date. Online, he mourned the day in 2005 when his maternal grandmother died: “She’s the closest person I’ve ever lost.” Her obituary, in this newspaper the next day, listed his name.
His posts at times included the names of wives and lovers, which also helped confirm that “ScorLibran” is who he said he was: “Chris,” as he sometimes wrote, a man born in Macon at 4:51 p.m. on Oct. 25, 1967. (Oh, and had he been a girl, he said his mom would have named him Leah.) He was that precise, that wide open.
In recent weeks, a Telegraph reporter spoke to one of Calmer’s family members, a woman who asked to remain anonymous.
The family member was told of Calmer’s prolific Internet ramblings. She listened as the reporter read passages culled from message boards that are nothing short of Christopher Keith Calmer’s autobiography.
“Sounds like genuine Chris,” the family member said.
Many of the posts were drawn-out conversations with others. Some were his replies to questions on broad topics ranging from relationships and music to race and gun control.
Whatever the attraction, Calmer was hooked. The forums were “addictive,” he once wrote. “I’m surprised I can leave my computer at all.”
Though it would be a mistake to read too much into his words, their sheer volume is difficult to ignore. In light of what he stands accused of, it is easy, perhaps too easy, to construe his introspection as a decade-long unraveling.
Calmer, a longtime smoker, at times riffed on loneliness. Working from home as a well-paid computer whiz, he could go days without seeing a soul.
“I only need a little contact to feel satiated,” he wrote, “and reaching out on these forums ... is just the thing I seek out for the contact I need.”
It was, he added, the perfect relationship.
“I can come at any time, I can leave at any time, and I know there will always be a friend here day or night.”
In an old message-board thread about what he did not want for Christmas, he mentioned more than a dozen things. Topping a list that included death, “police involvement,” Ebola and venereal disease were two words: “jail time.”
Nothing to him appeared too sensitive or insignificant.
What did his mother give him for Christmas in 2003? A calendar of bikini models. “Mama knows her boy.”
His favorite words? Ablation, accretion, extruder. He liked the way they sound.
What happened to him as a boy? “I was molested when I was 12. ... This feels strange to talk about because I haven’t mentioned this again since right after it happened, 24 years ago.”
He was concise, grammatically perfect and his typos were so rare that he was either off-the-charts intelligent or incredibly anal retentive.
Were his words clues to his demise?
Or were they the demise itself, the director’s cut of a life run dry?
* * *
When a man reveals so much about himself, it isn’t long before a glaring question arises.
What isn’t he telling?
One of Calmer’s ex-wives did not return messages seeking comment for this story. Nor did a girlfriend he met on the Internet and lived with briefly.
A letter sent to the lockup where he is being held without bond on murder and aggravated assault charges went unopened, returned to sender.
In person, according to his anonymous family member, Calmer could come off as arrogant.
“Every now and then he would remind you that he was infinitely smarter than you,” she said.
“He was always gonna be the big success.”
He would on occasion disrespect his parents, the family member said.
But in an online post in 2005 about his mother and father, Calmer wrote: “My parents are the greatest in the world. ... And I’ll always be here for them. They’re two of my very best friends.”
Since his arrest, they haven’t so much as called Calmer, who is their only child, the family member said.
According to the family member, the evening that deputies Norris and Wilson were shot, Calmer had “ranted and raged” in front of his folks and a visiting aunt and uncle.
“He pointed the gun at them and at himself,” the family member said.
There is no telling what might have set him off. His Internet writings recalled bouts of depression and chronic pain -- and the drugs he took to feel better.
He underwent a failed back surgery years ago, the family member said, and drugs didn’t help.
“Nothing would touch the pain,” she said. “I think in the process he just went off the deep end.”
* * *
It was September 2004.
Ten years later -- almost to the week -- Deputy Norris would fall prey to gunfire.
But back then Calmer was at a computer keyboard, tapping away. He may well have been staying with his parents in the very stone-sided house where Norris, 14 at the time, would later be mortally wounded.
Calmer signed onto his favorite message board and wrote that “something has to be done” to curtail gun production and ownership.
He acknowledged that banning guns “will not take them out of the hands of criminals right away. But banning their ownership and production from this point forward would serve to eliminate them over generations. ... Almost any action is better than none at all.”
Guns, he argued, were the ultimate weapon -- too dangerous.
* * *
There is no way to know if Calmer meant any of what he wrote.
But he did write it for the better part of a decade. There is little doubt he at least felt it.
And how he felt often took center stage.
Online a decade ago, Calmer warned others to “please be careful” with antidepressants and painkillers.
He told of nightmarish withdrawals, but said he’d weaned himself off drugs like Wellbutrin, lithium, Neurontin, Gabitril, Klonopin.
He suggested avoiding the latter, used to treat panic disorders and seizures.
“I’ve never taken such an evil medication,” he wrote of Klonopin. “I’ve never had an angry or violent bone in my body, but several years ago when it was prescribed to me, I raged for three weeks. I never became violent, but I hated everything in the world and everyone who cared about me.”
Calmer said he had been off the drug “for years” in 2003 and had healed himself.
He mentioned surgery for a ruptured disk in 1996. He also recalled chronic migraines and the depression he suffered in the mid-to-late 1990s that was “the worst bout of depression I’ve ever known. ... It was the most lonely feeling in the world. ... I hated everything. I was completely and utterly lost.”
He went to doctor after doctor, took drug after drug.
“I never knew how I’d feel from one minute to the next.”
Then he rallied. He found his emotional footing and strength from within in “my own light, my own hope.”
It wasn’t easy, he wrote: “No one else had to live with the fear and loneliness and despair I felt every second of every minute of every single day.”
His second wife, Samantha, left him.
He lost his job.
He considered suicide “every single frikkin’ day for weeks on end.”
But he kept living.
If he died, he wrote, what he’d miss most was himself.
“So I let myself live one more day.”
* * *
Calmer also complained of severe migraines, how for 10 or 12 days a month he was in their clutches.
“The pain,” he wrote in early 2004, “is utter hell.”
Interspersed in his posts about personal distress were hundreds of others that were anything but. They were lighthearted riffs on everything from grits, which he hated, to bubble wrap, which he liked.
He described himself as a brown-haired, 200-pound fitness buff who could bench press his weight and then some; a BMW-driving, Pink Floyd-loving audiophile who was gainfully employed in the tech industry.
He was, he once wrote, “starting to get ‘Mel Gibson gray’ on the sides,” but he wouldn’t resort to dye unless the gray proved detrimental to “my dating opportunities.”
From time to time on message boards, he explained that his “ScorLibran” screen name was a reference to his late-October birth date, which put him on the Libra-Scorpio cusp. His explanations would invariably tout his in-depth study of astrology.
“If you believe in gravity and light, then astrology has meaning even though I know it seems ‘freakish to most people,’” he wrote. “Coincidence, or even placebo ... I’m happy with it as part of my life.”
He was gaga for singer LeAnn Rimes. “My weakness,” he called her.
He was so proud of his black-and-white kitten Jinx that he used her picture as his avatar.
He once posted a personal ad that included what he cherished most: “rain, honesty, intellect, happiness, animals, affection, kindness, and children.”
“I’m an admitted control freak,” he went on, but added, “I’m not all clingy like many Scorpios.”
In response to another online poster’s question about his worst character trait, Calmer said he could “hold a grudge longer than anyone ... silently.”
* * *
It was Thanksgiving 2003.
Calmer authored a message-board post calling for the elimination of “the need for people to own guns.”
“Easier said than done,” he wrote.
“It is indeed sad,” Calmer noted, “that people feel the need to own guns to protect themselves. ... Human life is worth more than (gun rights). ... If it means prying guns out of people’s cold, dead fingers, then I’ll bring my pry bar.”
Too many things can go wrong with guns, he said.
Guns are stolen; there are accidents.
And, Calmer wrote, “a previously law-abiding person can simply get angry enough to use their gun to kill someone.”
* * *
Calmer confided on a message board a decade ago that on his worst days he took a prescribed opiate.
“It turns me into a person that I’m not,” he wrote.
It was easy enough, he added, to hide the medication’s effects from his online audience:
“None of you can tell whether I’m sitting and typing normally, or typing with one hand because the other is cradling my head on the edge of my desk because of the pain.”
On pills or not, he wrote, “I live my life in pain.”
His posts were so numerous, the topics so random that in the day-to-day trickle they read more like overly personal musings than a cyberspace pity party.
Calmer bragged of having sex in the restroom of a Boeing 767 -- “tough for a 6’3” guy” -- and getting it on in a car speeding 156 mph.
He could talk computer bit rates and racing engines. A lengthy bio he posted in 2004 noted interests in electronics, lasers, robotics, math. He claimed to have studied aerospace engineering at Auburn University.
He sometimes reassured himself that true love awaited: “I’ve got a soulmate out there.”
* * *
It was spring 2005.
Calmer never let on that he had harmed or intended to hurt anyone. (Aside from a time in the mid-1980s when he said he slugged a bully with a chair at Stratford Academy.) He has no known criminal past.
About the closest he came to hinting at violence was in the middle of the night on April 19, 2005.
He was probably joking. Or not.
He had written an online note to a teenager, another message-board regular, who’d brought up the topic of school and a looming test.
“I’m 37 and I haven’t taken an exam in about a decade-and-a-half, but I guess you could say every day is a test for me,” Calmer wrote.
He attached a green smiley face to the note and added, “Not killing someone is passing.”
* * *
Calmer’s family member who did not want her name printed said, “We always knew he was off a little bit.”
She said if he had any friends she would be surprised. “I really just kind of tried to avoid him.”
Even so, he had once been attractive.
“With good teeth,” the family member said. “A tall Tom Cruise.”
A decade-old photo shows him in a flannel shirt and sunglasses. He was bearded, well-built, working as a software configuration analyst.
But online he griped of being a “psycho-blonde-waif magnet,” a man who attracted “nutcase super-codependents with histories of violence.”
On the Internet, he indulged in sex talk. He once listed two dozen conquests by name.
In 2003, he lamented a failed relationship with a local woman named Michelle. A few days before their unexpected breakup, he bought her a diamond engagement ring that, he was quick to share, “cost more than my car.”
More recently, he appeared to suffer from alopecia, hair loss. His body, according to the family member, was eaten up with sores. He seemed weary, always kicked back in a lounge chair at his parents’ place.
“Nothing jades you more than chronic pain,” Calmer once wrote.
He was at times anything but what his name -- Calmer -- implied.
He said the business world had taught him “nice guys finish last.”
“I’ve always stepped on people who were about to step on me,” he once wrote, advising an online friend.
Later, in a January 2007 message to his Internet pals, he wrote:
“My apologies to all for being insolent and cruel. I’ve been in pain for over two months now, and that state completely saps my mood and sense of tolerance. I think it’s been pretty clear that I haven’t been myself during this time. I’m seeing my doctor again tomorrow, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be going under the scalpel yet again. I’ll be sure to get better drugs this time around. (Not sure how much stronger we can go than morphine and percoset (sic), though. Maybe straight heroin?)”
A year after that, he told of being disabled, diagnosed with cervical disk disease and of enduring two “major” surgeries.
He said six screws and a titanium plate held his neck together. “Well, those and the two chunks of cadaver bone fused into my spine.”
His left arm and shoulder atrophied. He described his pain as the shooting, hurts-like-hell sizzle you feel when you bang your funny bone:
“Take that peak one second of pain, multiply it a few times, imagine it engulfing your neck, a shoulder and an arm, and then stretch out its duration to a year. That’s how 2007 was for me.”
He said he was then taking 150 milligrams of morphine a day.
“Consciousness,” he wrote, “is pain.”
* * *
It was February 2008.
Calmer again voiced his dislike of guns.
In an 87-word mouthful of a sentence, he wrote:
“In no way will any path to enlightenment for our species include common ownership of machines each of whose only practical fate in a home is to be held by the hand of a determined and frightened person (and far too often one not in a stable, mature emotional state) and used either to terrify another person, or to launch a small, heavy, precisely aimed piece of metal at a supersonic speed with the goal of piercing anything which incites the interest or wrath of the holder.”
* * *
The frequency of Calmer’s Internet posts waned.
He wrote in February 2011 that he’d “had some trouble with the nerve damage in my neck and left shoulder, but nothing too serious. Other than that, it’s been all about building gaming PCs.”
In the past, Calmer wrote poems and shared them with his message-board buds. If he was still cranking out commentaries and diatribes the way he had a decade earlier, he either kept them to himself or shared them on more secreted websites.
Lately he’d been writing fiction, short stories.
The evening Deputy Norris was attacked, there was a manuscript on a kitchen counter in the house where Calmer lived with his folks.
His anonymous family member said the manuscript was thick and had been “strategically placed” by Calmer.
There were relatives visiting -- an aunt and uncle -- and Calmer no doubt wanted it known that Cheryl and Keith Calmer’s only child had been hard at work validating his genius.
So there sat the manuscript he hoped to sell.
But no one spoke of it. Doing so would only encourage him, the anonymous family member said, and open the door for Calmer to flaunt his intellect.
“They wouldn’t take the bait,” the family member said.
The manuscript was titled “The Post Office.”
In June, under the name C.K. Calmer, he posted a shortened version of the story on a website for e-cigarette aficionados.
It is the tale of a postal worker named Max Billings, a fellow who “has always fancied himself a ‘man with potential,’ an opinion not yet validated by meaningful success in any endeavor.”
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.