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Sikh temple gunman had 'kind and gentle and loving' childhood, stepmom says

  • Wade Michael Page.JPG

    This photo released by authorities shows 40-year-old shooting suspect Wade Michael Page.

  • Brian Murphy.JPG

    This photo, provided by the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office, shows 51-year-old Lt. Brian Murphy. Authorities say Murphy, a 21-year veteran with the Oak Creek Police Department, was shot eight or nine times Sunday and remains in critical condition.

The 40-year-old Army veteran who killed six people and wounded three others at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin reportedly grew up as a “precious child” in a typical American family, according to his stepmother.

Laura Page, who was married to Wade Michael Page’s father for roughly two decades, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that her stepson was “kind and gentle and loving” during his childhood.

“Where he changed and where this came from, we have no idea,” Page told the newspaper from her home in Denver.

Page was 10 when the couple married and his birth mother died from lupus three years later. Page's mother, Beverly Van Buskirk, died in 1985, the Denver Post reports.

“He was devastated,” Laura Page told the Journal Sentinel.

Still, Page was mostly happy and enjoyed “normal little boy stuff” like fishing, camp and playing with his dog. He also loved music and played a guitar frequently, she said.

“He was kind and gentle and loving,” she told the newspaper. “He was normal in every way that I can think of.”

She and Page’s father moved to Texas when the boy was in his teens, but he stayed in Colorado to remain with his aunt and his grandmother, Elaine Lenz.

Lenz confirmed her relationship to Page, but declined further comment when she spoke to a Denver Post reporter at her Denver home. She later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Page was a caring grandson who sent her a dozen roses two weeks ago "just to tell me he loved me."

Page, meanwhile, later rejoined his parents in Texas after graduating from high school and took a job at a convenience store before joining the Army.

“He said it was one of the best things he ever did – it gave him focus, a direction,” Laura Page told the Journal Sentinel.

Laura Page and Jesse Alvin Page divorced in 2001, but she spoke with Page’s father after Sunday’s killings. His father said he had tried calling his son about three weeks ago, but never received a return call.

Page, who was shot to death by police, described himself as a member of the "Hammerskins Nation," a skinhead group rooted in Texas that has branches in Australia and Canada, according to the SITE Monitoring Service, a Maryland-based private intelligence firm that searches the Internet for extremist activity.

Page posted 250 messages on one skinhead site between March 2010 and the middle of this year, and appeared eager to recruit others. In March 2011, he advertised for a "family friendly" barbecue in North Carolina, imploring others to attend. In November, Page challenged a poster who indicated he would leave the United States if Herman Cain was elected president.

"Stand and fight, don't run," he implored.

The bald, heavily tattooed bassist trained in psychological warfare before he was demoted and discharged more than a decade ago. After leaving the military, he became active in the obscure underworld of white supremacist music, playing in bands with names such as Definite Hate and End Apathy.

Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said Monday that investigators might never know for certain what motivated the attack on the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in suburban Milwaukee. So far, no hate-filled manifesto has emerged, nor any angry blog or ranting Facebook entries.

"We have a lot of information to decipher, to put it all together before we can positively tell you what that motive is — if we can determine that," Edwards said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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