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.

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 (Ga.) sheriff’s deputy — one of two sent to a disturbance call at the Calmer home near Interstate 75, six miles northwest of Macon — showed up at his door.

Calmer allegedly shot Deputy Michael Norris in the head, 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 Chris 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 others.

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 enough personal information that clearly identifies him as the author of his posts.

He shared photos of himself, 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 the Macon Telegraph 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 a 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: relationships, music, race, gun control.

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 was “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.”

Were his posts 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, a glaring question arises.

What isn’t he telling?

One of Calmer’s ex-wives didn’t return messages seeking comment for this story. Nor did a girlfriend he met on the Internet and lived with briefly.

A letter sent to where he was jailed 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 a decade 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.”

Still, 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 would brag 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 mentioned 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 doubted he had any friends. “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,” 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 abrupt 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 typed:

“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.

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.

“They wouldn’t take the bait,” the family member said.

Doing so would only encourage him, the anonymous family member said, and open the door for Calmer to flaunt his intellect.

The manuscript was titled “The Post Office.”

In June, under the name C.K. Calmer, he posted a 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.”


Keeping Elliot Alive

It can be painful enough when doctors tell patients they have only so long to live. But what if the patient is a little boy, and they can't tell him at all?

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published October 2004

CHAPTER 1


If he was cured, his cancer died in the hospital where they microwaved his brain.

But not so fast.

The boy might die.

Don't go crying for him, though, and end up like so many of the people who see him at home in Perry who flat lose it.

He doesn't know it is not normal for a 2-year-old to get put to sleep every weekday morning for six weeks. He thinks the machine he goes night-night on is just a big camera.

As much as it might sting, think how bad it would be if he knew cancer's reality, that he may not live to lose his baby teeth.

Rock ’n’ Roll with a Bullet

                                                                                             Beau Cabell / The Telegraph
They were old south Macon boys. One was a rock singer, the other a cop. Three nights after Christmas in 1998, they met head-on. They would embrace a year later, and one would say, 'I'm sorry.'

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published April 17, 2011 
The scar streaked across the rock singer’s belly. It was from where the surgeons saved his life. They patched his intestines, sewed him up and lent him another decade on this earth. Plenty of days to set things right.



Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2011/04/17/1528616/they-were-ol-south-macon-boys.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

Before John Rocker Flamed Out

He Was Kind Enough to Strike Out an 8-Year-Old  

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published Dec. 19, 1999
It was a week before Christmas and the little boy's dream would not come true. The boy had a life-threatening disease. Only his mama knew about his dream. Not the 70 or so friends and strangers who watched the 8-year-old ride up to the high school baseball field with a police escort. And certainly not his hero, John Rocker of the Atlanta Braves, who was there to play catch with him. Ben Fuller's dream would not come true because he didn't let it.

‘Unmissable’

Lauren Giddings and the Heart She Won  

By Amy Leigh Womack and Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published Dec. 12, 2011
The man in the satiny pink polo sat alone, the brightest thing in a gloomy room. It was dark out, rainy. The lights were low in the private alcove off the dining room of the Buckhead country club where he sat. The man had come to talk about his girlfriend, about their lives, about what might have been. Had they never met, there is no chance on this earth he would be dressed in pink.

Man on the Street

                                                                                          Woody Marshall / The Telegraph
The Story of How Fledgling Lawyer and Murder-Suspect-to-be Stephen Mark McDaniel Went on Camera and Introduced Himself to the World.

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published Aug. 7, 2011 
He was the guy with the corkscrewy mane. With the tired blue eyes of a bookworm who had just pulled back-to-back all-nighters. And perhaps he had. Seven years of college had come and gone, and still there was studying to do. Then, suddenly, there was not. There was ... a nightmare.

‘What Any Parent’s Gonna Do’

Drowned Firefighter Was 'Always the Hero'  
By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published May 23, 2011
It was the young father’s first time fishing. Two of his sons were already old pros. They would help him. They knew a great spot.

As side-of-the-road fishing holes go, the one out off Moseley Dixon Road, just down the cove from a fish house where Oprah Winfrey once ate, is about as family-friendly as they come.

There is a gravel parking patch beneath the pines. There aren’t many weeds. The dirt shoreline doesn’t boast enough sand to really call it a beach, but for getting your feet wet or bank fishing it’s perfect. Folks often pull in to feed bread to the ducks and geese who make Lake Tobesofkee their home.

The Wanderer

An Unknown Man and His Buggy 

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published Jan. 3, 1999 
The man pushing the Piggly Wiggly buggy trudges out of the shade and merges with the 29-degree wind chill blowing south down Interstate 475. The shade has come from where it always does, the space beneath the overpass between Exit 1 and Exit 2, the place where the man and his Piggly Wiggly buggy live.The man is a fixture along the freeway's breakdown lane, as familiar as its mileposts.

Locals have their theories, their self-assuring explanations that, yes, there must be some very good reasons for a man to poke along a highway the way he does. His story has no doubt logged more miles than he has, circumnavigating the gossip circuit no telling how many times.

A Bank Robber Does Vegas

He hit Sin City with a wad of stolen cash. He won big, even had delusions of paying back the bank. But his luck ran out.

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 1997
Dorsey Dwayne Harper, a 10th-grade dropout, was washing his truck, jet-spraying the mudflaps of his Toyota 4X4, about to do something stupid. But he was no fool. He had been in the Beta Club in middle school. He'd landed a job making 32 grand a year by the time he was 20 and running an auto-lube pit in south Georgia. So he wasn't some dimwit.

When the codgers came into the Cracker Barrel where he waited on them when he was 17, he knew enough to serve them with yes ma'ams and yes sirs and, like he did one time, charm a $55 tip out of a 25-buck tab. But he was not so smart either. For there he was, at the coin-o-matic car wash on Pio Nono Avenue, next to a Hardee's and a bank, about to do something foolish.

And the South Side Fell Dark

Dispatch from a Tornado-Tossed City  

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published May 18, 2008
When the sun set on Mother's Day, south Macon slipped on a shawl of tranquility. The town was under a tornado-wrought curfew. It was so quiet you could hear the breeze. The sky was clear. The wind, steady and at times gusting from the northwest, was the still-whistling tail of a cold front. Fifteen hours earlier, a thresher from the clouds had chopped Macon off at the knees. Now a city fell silent. The streets were deserted. An outer-space stillness took hold.

48 Hours at Hartsfield

Tara-Lynne Pixley
                      Tara-Lynne Pixley / Creative Loafing
An engagement, two honeymoons, a $1 flight, Cocoa the drugged poodle, a half-naked man and a weekend journey to nowhere at the altar of American air travel.

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published Oct. 14, 2010
The fighter pilot is radiant — flagpole sleek, a recruiting poster in boots, an American stud. He's decked out in his washed-ivy flight suit, lounging in a row of chairs that flank the arrival escalator between the north and south terminals. Unless he happens to catch your gaze, he blends into the Friday-night fray at Hartsfield, a supersonic man reduced to standing by.

He is waiting. Which is pretty much what every other soul streaming into the world's busiest airport is doing or is about to do. In the modern jet age, before we step on a plane and, in a blur, get to where we are going, we hurry up and wait. We sit and stand and wander and eat and read and blab on our phones — "I'm at the airport" — and go next to nowhere for a fairly good while. And, if we choose, we have something we supposedly don't have much of anymore: time.

Abby and the Dreamboat

A Girl with Cancer and Her 'Twilight' Weekend 

By Joe Kovac Jr.  / Originally published May 8, 2011 
On the last day of April, a dark-haired teen named Abby woke up early. She had gone to sleep late the night before aglow in Hollywood magic. It was almost as if her life had become a movie.

abby_walk
Beau Cabell / The Telegraph
Now it was daybreak Saturday and a dreamy span of 24 hours was about to enter its climactic act. Less than nine hours earlier, she’d had dinner with a teenage heartthrob. And oh her goshness, as she might say, on a dare and in front of said hunk, Abby nibbled on someone’s snail appetizer. It was just half a snail. Still, she tried it. She chewed and chewed and, gulp, kept the morsel down.

Now here she was on her way to meet the fellow again, to squeeze in next to him on the set of a morning newscast and do one of the coolest things a girl who has just turned 13 could ever do: squeeze in next to a 17-year-old actor and his TMZ-approved abs. Abs that on this morning were being covered up by a T-shirt with Abby’s name on it.