EUGENE, Ore. - Before shooting up the cafeteria at Thurston High School, Kip Kinkel left a note saying he was sorry for killing his parents, but they could never live with the embarrassment after he was caught with a gun at school.
''I love my Mom and Dad so much,'' Lane County sheriff's Detective Pamelia McComas read Wednesday from the note introduced by the defense in Kinkel's sentencing hearing. ''I just got two felonies on my record. It would destroy them. The embarrassment would be too much for them. They couldn't live with themselves.''
The note contrasted sharply with the Kip Kinkel his older sister, Kristin, described: a sweet, sensitive and funny child who became withdrawn during middle school, wearing only black, but still tried to please his parents - both teachers - especially in school, where he had trouble reading and spelling.
Kristin Kinkel, 22, choked up and her 17-year-old brother wiped away tears as she read in court a letter she wrote to Judge Jack Mattison, who will decide whether Kip Kinkel spends as little as 25 years or the rest of his life in prison.
''What keeps me believing in him and loving him is the fact that he is a good person that came from a good home,'' she read. ''I feel silly writing that, because it seems so contradictory, looking at what actually took place. However, it's the truth, and it keeps me alive.
''Only with hindsight do I truly see the signs of someone who was in desperate need of help, different help than any of us knew how to give.''
Kip Kinkel pleaded guilty Sept. 24 to four counts of murder and 26 counts of attempted murder for the May 1998 slayings of his parents and two students at Springfield's Thurston High School, as well as the wounding of 25 other students and the attempted stabbing of a detective.
In his plea bargain, Kinkel agreed to serve 25 years for the murders. Judge Mattison must decide how Kinkel must serve the 7 years the prosecution has recommended for each of the 26 attempted murder counts. If all are added consecutively, the sentence would total 220 years.
In the note he left on the living room coffee table after killing his parents, Kip Kinkel wrote that he couldn't eat or sleep, wished he had been aborted, and didn't deserve such wonderful parents because he destroyed everything he touched.
''My head just doesn't work right,'' McComas read from the note. ''Goddamn these voices in my head.
''I have to kill people. I don't know why. I have no other choice. What have I become? I am so sorry.''
Kinkel briefly lifted his eyes from the defense table and glanced at his sister as she took the witness stand, but then looked down as she described their parents as ''amazing people, very loving, very giving.''
He spent the rest of the time during her testimony with his forehead resting on the table. When she stepped down, he used a tissue to wipe tears off the table.
In contrast to recollections of classmates who had said Kinkel bragged of torturing animals, Kristin Kinkel said her brother loved his cat.
''He nurtured and protected and made sure everything was just perfect for the cat,'' she said, her voice getting thick with emotion.
Since his arrest last year, Kip Kinkel has earned a high school equivalency diploma and is considering studying law to help others behind bars, she said.
''I believe what he needs is the hope that he has a chance of achieving these goals,'' Kristin Kinkel read from her letter. ''I believe he is aware of the pain that he has caused, and is just as shocked as the rest of us that he was capable of such horror.''
As evidence that her brother could be safely released someday, Kristin Kinkel said she had counseled her brother not to listen to the victims of his crimes when they make their statements in court, but he wouldn't consider it.
''I told him to go to a safe place in his memory, and not listen to the victims when they talk, because they are angry and going to say things they really don't mean. He stopped me and said, 'No, I owe it to them to listen.'''
She noted that when she first visited her brother in jail, they spent the first half hour crying. The first thing he said was that he was sorry, but it took weeks for him to be able to look her in the eye. He still hasn't apologized for his specific actions.