AP NEWS
Related topics

Salvi Said To Have Been Desperate for Attention

January 9, 1995

BOSTON (AP) _ He made himself sick taking dietary supplements to bulk up as he lifted weights. He got fired from a job for exposing himself to a woman. He got fired from another job for getting in a fight with a customer.

John C. Salvi III was an odd young man, given to strange ways of getting noticed. ``He always wanted the recognition, was always looking for a way to get recognized,″ said a family friend, Mark Roberts.

Today he is recognized _ as the 22-year-old man charged with shootings at abortion clinics in two states that left two dead and five injured.

But for years, as he unraveled, he was noticed only by those around him. He was on the fringe, desperate to be somebody, a man who often wore ``a very frightening look,″ said Roberts.

In high school, he prayed to God to make him bigger as he pumped iron and popped pills.

``He would go to extremes, taking too many amino acids, and he got really sick once trying to do it the easy way and had to be taken to the hospital,″ said one former friend, Cory Kness.

The two had been close as sophomores, and joined the wrestling team together. But by their senior year they hardly saw each other. Kness was captain of the varsity wrestling team. Salvi never made it past junior varsity and quit the sport.

Salvi, an only child, started hanging out with a few local toughs. He emerged with no police record, but with a reputation as someone in trouble.

The Salvi family lived in a prosperous neighborhood in Naples, Fla., where Salvi’s 49-year-old father, John, owns a dental supply business. After high school, Salvi’s father helped get him a job with Roberts’ construction company

But Roberts soon became wary of his friend’s son. He said he decided not to give Salvi any more work after he exposed himself to a passing woman as he worked on the roof of a house.

Salvi then headed for Massachusetts, to live with an uncle in Ipswich. He had lived there as a child, before his parents moved to Florida.

A former Ipswich neighbor remembered the young Salvi playing with her son, taking tennis lessons and hanging out at the beach.

``He was very considerate. There was no indication there was anything wrong with him emotionally,″ said Ann Hughes, now of Lake Forest, Ill.

But on his return as a young adult to Ipswich, Salvi did not prosper, said his uncle, Dennis Trudel. Salvi did some odd jobs and got a clamming license that he hardly used.

``Basically, he seemed like a nice enough kid, but he seemed like he didn’t have any direction,″ said Charlie Hall, a mechanic who lived nearby and loaned Salvi tools. ``He didn’t deal too well.″

When his uncle developed heart problems, Salvi moved to Everett, outside Boston.

Cindy Lockshire of Everett lived in the same rooming house where Salvi was paying $72 a week rent in 1993. Her 19-year-old daughter, Cynthia, went on a few dates with Salvi, who was working at the time pouring hot tar for a construction company.

Salvi seemed ``spacey,″ she said.

``He would kind of go into a stare and be by himself when he was angry, but you could see his anger in his eyes,″ said Lockshire.

Lockshire said Salvi never talked about abortion during the year he lived in the rooming house. But that summer, Salvi went to the Immaculate Conception Church in Everett and asked to distribute color photographs of aborted fetuses, said the pastor, the Rev. Edmund Sviokla.

Then, Salvi returned in the fall and asked if he could stand in the pulpit on Sunday and address the congregation about the pro-life movement.

Each time, Sviokla said no. ``He didn’t know anything about the pro-life movement. He just thought pro-life was anti-abortion,″ said Sviokla. ``I tried to tell him it was far bigger than that.″

Sviolka also tried to persuade Salvi that his photographs could hurt his cause, repulsing possible allies. Salvi had decorated the back of his truck with photographs of aborted fetuses, and the pastor said he forbade him from parking in front of the church.

Salvi enrolled at the Learning Institute of Beauty Sciences in Malden in fall 1993. Before he graduated in July, Salvi left classmates with the impression something was wrong.

Other students generally avoided him, said a 28-year-old classmate who asked not to be named. He didn’t talk much and they thought he was strange. They also found the photographs on his truck disturbing. One day, she recalled, Salvi scrawled ``John smells like toe cheese,″ on the chalk board.

``He was odd, kind of bizarre in a way. My girlfriend used to tell me, `Don’t talk to him. He has that look in his eye,‴ she said. ``But I said, `No, maybe the poor guy’s just lonely.′

``When it happened, she called me and said, `Didn’t I tell you?‴

Next, Salvi moved to New Hampshire, where he studied to become a hairdresser.

Salvi was working at the Eccentric Hair salon in Hampton, N.H. He was slowly learning the business. But mostly, he was sweeping floors and running errands for $5 an hour.

Richard Griffin, who sold the business two weeks before Salvi was fired, said Salvi was ``very much a loner.″

``He was very quiet and I always tried to get him to talk because you have to in our line of business,″ said Griffin. ``When he did, he quoted Scriptures constantly.″

The new salon owners said they didn’t want Salvi back after he got into a tug-of-war over a coat that a patron did not want to relinquish.

It was during this period that Salvi’s interest in the anti-abortion movement seemed to intensify.

In January 1994, he showed up at a meeting of the anti-abortionist Massachusetts Citizens for Life at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Revere. The meeting had been advertised in the papers.

``He never attempted to join, that anyone can recall. We’ve had no further contact with him,″ said Frances X. Hogan, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

By the time his parents came to visit him at Christmas, he had been largely unsuccessful in his anti-abortion efforts, fired from menial jobs, in and out of what were little more than casual relationships with women, and only making slow headway toward becoming a hairdresser.

He reportedly argued with his father, who questioned his choice of a hairdressing career. Salvi then went to Christmas Eve Mass with his parents, erupting in the middle of services into a disjointed speech about how the Catholic Church oppresses its members.

Five days later, he allegedly shot at the two Massachusetts abortion clinics, then fled to Virginia and shot at another clinic.

A security guard heard him cry out ``In the name of the Mother of God″ when he allegedly opened fire on one clinic, but Salvi never mentioned the abortion issue in a six-page statement after his arrest.

He did say he wanted to be interviewed by Barbara Walters.

AP RADIO
Update hourly