Before 'jihad,' Colleen had her demons

Colleen LaRose's boyfriend Kurt Gorman: He had no idea anything was amiss.
Colleen LaRose's boyfriend Kurt Gorman: He had no idea anything was amiss.
Posted: March 11, 2010

COLLEEN LaRose was a troubled woman even before, authorities say, she went on the Internet as JihadJane and offered herself up as an avenging angel to Islamic militants.

A possible suicide attempt prompted by the death of her beloved father, drinking bouts and reported legal troubles in her former home in Texas all preceded the arrest of LaRose, 46, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County, last fall for allegedly trawling the Internet in search of terrorists she could aid and pledging to die for their cause.

A federal indictment was unsealed Tuesday charging LaRose, who also called herself Fatima LaRose, with providing material support to terrorists and plotting with others to kill a Swedish artist who had depicted the prophet Muhammad as a dog.

LaRose's ex-boyfriend, Kurt Gorman, 47, with whom she lived in Pennsburg, remained mystified yesterday about how the 5-foot-2 woman with dirty-blonde hair turned into an alleged terror conspirator from a person who cared for his frail mother until her death, and for his father, who died last summer.

He said LaRose left without telling him last August.

Authorities said it was then that she traveled to Sweden. The artist, Lars Vilks, wasn't killed but seven people were arrested Tuesday in Ireland in connection with the plot.

LaRose was arrested when she returned to Philadelphia in October and has been held since without bail. She'll be arraigned March 18.

"Maybe she just went crazy" from the stress, said Gorman, who travels around the country on business. "Maybe she had too much time on her hands."

Gorman said he traveled a lot for work, leaving LaRose, who didn't work, alone for weeks at a time. He said that she played games on the computer but that he never dreamed she would convert to Islam and allegedly immerse herself in jihad.

Gorman, who manufactures custom parts for radio towers, said he met LaRose at Texas radio station where her father, an engineer, also was working. The father and daughter were very close, Gorman said.

The apparent suicide attempt occurred on May 21, 2005, according to a report by Upper Perkiomen police, about a month after her father's death, which had come on the heels of her brother's death.

Upper Perkiomen Police Officer Michael Devlin was summoned to Gorman's Pennsburg apartment by LaRose's worried mother and sister, in Ferris, Texas, who said that Colleen had called them, drinking and brooding about her dad, and had told them that she had taken eight to 10 prescription pills.

Devlin said LaRose was "highly intoxicated and having difficulty maintaining her balance." She told him she was depressed about her dad's death but "stated that she does not want to die."

Devlin said he told Gorman that LaRose should get counseling.

LaRose was arrested on a charge of public drunkenness in Upper Salford Township on Sept. 22, 2002, at which time she gave state police an address of Ferris, Texas, records show. She also was charged at that time with other offenses, including disorderly conduct. LaRose was stopped in Ferris for public intoxication in 2001 and in 2002. Court records showed that LaRose was arrested twice in 1997 in the San Antonio area, in one case on a DWI charge and the other for passing a bad check.

Daily News wire services and staff writer Christine Olley contributed to this report.

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