Mother of Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza 'was a gun obsessive living in fear of society's collapse'
The mother of Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza who slaughtered 20 US schoolchildren and seven adults was a gun-hoarding survivalist who was stockpiling weapons in preparation for an economic collapse, it has emerged.
Nancy Lanza was shot four times in the head before her son Adam gunned down young pupils and teachers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
Her sister-in-law Marsha Lanza told reporters at her Illinois home that her gun-obsessed relative was part of the ‘prepper’ movement that fears an economic collapse will lead to a breakdown in society.
“She prepared for the worst,” Ms Lanza said.
“Last time we visited her in person, we talked about prepping — are you ready for what could happen down the line, when the economy collapses?”
Nancy Lanza (52) had five registered firearms, had begun stockpiling food and taught Adam how to shoot. He is believed to have taken three of her guns — a Bushmaster .223-calibre, and two handguns, a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9mm — in the school massacre after he shot her dead in bed.
After taking her car, Adam Lanza (20) blasted his way into the school building in Newtown, Connecticut and used a high-power rifle to kill 20 children and six adults, including the principal and school psychologist who tried to stop him. The youngest victims were six and seven, the oldest 56.
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said Lanza shot himself after about 10 minutes of shooting as first responders entered the building.
A law enforcement official said Lanza — said to be addicted to violent video games — had “lots of ammo” on him when he died, enough to carry out significant additional carnage. During the rampage Lanza wiped out a first class of six and seven-year-olds and their two teachers.
“There were 14 coats hanging there and 14 bodies. He killed them all,” a law enforcement officer said.
Governor Malloy added in a TV interview: “We surmise that it was during the second classroom episode that he heard responders coming and apparently at that, decided to take his own life.”
All the victims at the school were shot with a rifle, at least some of them at close range, and all were apparently shot more than once, said Chief Medical Examiner Dr H Wayne Carver. There were as many as 11 shots on the bodies he examined.
All six adults killed at the school were women. Of the 20 children, eight were boys and 12 were girls.
Parents identified the children through photos to spare them some shock, Carver said.
Amid the confusion and sorrow, stories of heroism emerged, including an account of Hochsprung, 47, and the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56, rushing toward Lanza in an attempt to stop him. Both died.
There was also 27-year-old teacher Victoria Soto, whose name has been invoked as a portrait of selflessness. Investigators told relatives she was killed while shielding her first-graders from danger. She reportedly hid some students in a bathroom or closet, ensuring they were safe, a cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.
The gunman's father, Peter Lanza, issued a statement relating his own family's anguish in the aftermath.
“Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy. No words can truly express how heartbroken we are,” he said. “We are in a state of disbelief and trying to find whatever answers we can. We too are asking why. Like so many of you, we are saddened, but struggling to make sense of what has transpired.”
Authorities said Lanza had no criminal history, and it was not clear whether he had a job. Lanza was believed to have been diagnosed with Asperger's, a mild form of autism.
Richard Novia, the school district's head of security until 2008, who also served as adviser for the Newtown High School technology club, of which Lanza was a member, said he clearly “had some disabilities”.
(Top row from left) Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez-Green. (Middle row from left) Dylan Hockley, Catherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli. (Bottom row from left) Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos
CHARLOTTE BACON, SIX
They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Friday, after much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear a new pink dress and boots to school.
It was the last outfit the outgoing redhead would ever pick out. Charlotte's older brother Guy was also in the school but was not shot.
Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, have lived in Newtown for four or five years, JoAnn's brother John Hagen, of Nisswa, Minnesota, told Newsday.
"She was going to go some places in this world," he said. "This little girl could light up the room for anyone."
DANIEL BARDEN, SEVEN
Daniel's family says he was "fearless in the pursuit of happiness in life".
He was the youngest of three children and in a statement to the media, his family said Daniel earned his missing two front teeth and ripped jeans.
"Words really cannot express what a special boy Daniel was. Such a light. Always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful towards others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy," the family said.
His father Mark is a local musician. The New Haven Register said he was scheduled to play a show at a restaurant in Danbury on Friday, a show that was later cancelled.
On the biography on his professional website, he lists spending time with his family as his favourite thing to do.
RACHEL D'AVINO, 29
Days before the rampage, Rachel's boyfriend had asked her parents for permission to marry her.
she was a behavioural therapist who had only recently started working at the school where she was killed, according to Lissa Lovetere, a friend who is handling her funeral planned for Friday. Anthony Cerritelli planned to ask Ms D'Avino to marry him on Christmas Eve, Ms Lovetere said.
Ms Lovetere said they met in 2005 when Ms D'Avino was assigned to her son, who has autism, in their town of Bethlehem. Ms D'Avino was so dedicated she would make home visits and constantly offered guidance on handling situations such as helping her son deal with loud music at a wedding.
"Her job didn't end when the school bell rang at 3 o'clock," Ms Lovetere said.
Police told Ms D'Avino's family she shielded one of the pupils during the rampage, Ms Lovetere said.
"I'm heartbroken. I'm numb," she said. "I think she taught me more about how to be a good mother to a special needs child than anyone else ever had."
OLIVIA ENGEL, SIX
Images of Olivia show a happy child, one with a great sense of humour, as her family said in a statement. There she is, visiting Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. Or swinging a pink baseball bat, posing on a boat, or making a silly face.
Olivia loved school, did very well in maths and reading, and was "insightful for her age", said the statement released by her uncle, John Engel.
She was a child who "lit up a room and the people around her". Creative with drawing and designing, she was also a tennis and football player and took art classes, swimming, and dance lessons in ballet and hip hop. A Daisy Girl Scout, she enjoyed musical theatre.
"She was a great big sister and was always very patient with her three-year-old brother Brayden," her family said, recalling that her favourite colours were purple and pink.
Olivia was learning the rosary and always led grace before the family dinner. "She was a grateful child who was always appreciative and never greedy," the family said.
Her father said she was a six-year-old who had a lot to look forward to.
Dan Merton, a long-time friend of the family, recalled that she loved attention, had perfect manners and was a teacher's pet.
"Her only crime," he said, "is being a wiggly, smiley six-year-old."
DAWN HOCHSPRUNG, 47
Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of nursery schoolers exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.
She viewed her school as a model, telling the Newtown Bee in 2010: "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, and in October, the 47-year-old shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "safety first".
When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend. Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.
"She had an extremely likable style about her," said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Ms Hochsprung lived and had taught. "She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here."
MADELEINE HSU, SIX
Dr Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine's house on Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.
Dr Velsmid said that after hearing of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.
"We were waiting for casualties to come out, and there was nothing. There was no need, unfortunately," he said. "This is the darkest thing I've ever walked into, by far."
His daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.
CATHERINE HUBBARD, SIX
Catherine's parents released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community.
"We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet, and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy," Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. "We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy."
CHASE KOWALSKI, SEVEN
Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the back yard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbour Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing - and winning - his first mini-triathlon.
"You couldn't think of a better child," Mr Grimes said.
His own five children all attended Sandy Hook.
NANCY LANZA, 52
She once was known simply for the game nights she hosted and the Christmas decorations she put up at her house. Now Ms Lanza is known as her son's first victim.
The two shared a home in a well-to-do Newtown neighbourhood, but details were slow to emerge of who she was and what might have led her son to carry out such horror.
Kingston, New Hampshire, police chief Donald Briggs Jr said she once lived in the community and was a kind, considerate and loving person. The former stockbroker at John Hancock in Boston was well-respected, Mr Briggs said.
Court records show Ms Lanza and her ex-husband, Peter Lanza, filed for divorce in 2008. He lives in Stamford and is a tax director at General Electric. A neighbour, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Ms Lanza from get-togethers she hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. She said her neighbour enjoyed gardening.
"She was a very nice lady," Ms Cullens said. "She was just like all the rest of us in the neighbourhood, just a regular person."
JESSE LEWIS, SIX
Jesse Lewis had hot chocolate with his favourite breakfast sandwich - sausage, egg and cheese - at the neighbourhood deli before going to school on Friday morning.
Jesse and his parents were regulars at the Misty Vale Deli in Sandy Hook, owner Angel Salazar told The Wall Street Journal.
"He was always friendly; he always liked to talk," Mr Salazar said.
Jesse's family has a collection of animals he enjoyed playing with, and he was learning to ride a horse.
Family friend Barbara McSperrin told the Journal Jesse was "a typical six-year-old little boy, full of life".
ANA MARQUEZ-GREENE, SIX
A year ago, Ana was revelling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.
The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the family moved to Connecticut two months ago, drawn from Canada in part by Sandy Hook's sterling reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's nine-year-old brother also was at the school but escaped safely.
Ms Marquez had just visited the new home over Thanksgiving and is perplexed by what happened. "What happened does not match up with the place where they live," she said.
A video spreading across the internet shows a confident Ana hitting every note as she sings Come, Thou Almighty King. She flashes a big grin and waves to the camera when she finishes.
Mr Marquez confirmed the girl's father is saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who wrote on Facebook that he was trying to "work through this nightmare".
"As much as she's needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise," he wrote. "I love you sweetie girl."
JAMES MATTIOLI, SIX
The upstate New York town of Sherrill is thinking of Cindy Mattioli, who grew up there and lost her son James in the school shooting in Connecticut.
"It's a terrible tragedy, and we're a tight community," Mayor William Vineall told the Utica Observer-Dispatch. "Everybody will be there for them, and our thoughts and prayers are there for them."
James's grandparents, Jack and Kathy Radley, still live in the city, the newspaper reported.
GRACE AUDREY McDONNELL, SEVEN
With broken hearts, Grace's parents said they could not believe the outpouring of support they have received since the little girl who was the centre of their lives died.
Lynn and Chris McDonnell called their daughter "the love and light" of their family in a statement released by the girl's uncle.
The family also shared a photo featuring Grace smiling into the camera, her eyes shining and a pink bow adorning her long blonde hair.
"Words cannot adequately express our sense of loss," the McDonnells said.
ANNE MARIE MURPHY, 52
A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.
Remembering their teacher daughter, Ms Murphy's parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter as hours ticked by. And then it came.
Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. As the grim news arrived, the victim's mother reached for her rosary.
"You don't expect your daughter to be murdered," her father told the newspaper. "It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere."
EMILIE PARKER, SIX
Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.
Her father Robbie fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blonde, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except foods.
Mr Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, aged three and four. He is sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it.
"I'm so blessed to be her dad," he said.
JACK PINTO, SIX
Jack was a huge fan of American football side the New York Giants.
Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said he talked to Jack's family, who are considering burying him in Cruz's No 80 jersey.
Cruz honoured Jack on Sunday on his shoes, writing on them the words "Jack Pinto, My Hero" and "RIP. Jack Pinto."
"I also spoke to an older brother and he was distraught as well. I told him to stay strong and I was going to do whatever I can to honour him," Cruz said after the Giants game with Atlanta Falcons. "He was fighting tears and could barely speak to me."
Cruz said he plans to give the gloves he wore during the game to the boy's family, and spend some time with them.
"There's no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolises you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on," he said. "I can't even explain it."
Jack's funeral is scheduled for 1pm on Monday at the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown, followed by a burial at Newtown Village Cemetery.
NOAH POZNER, SIX
Noah was "smart as a whip", gentle but with a rambunctious streak, said his uncle, Alexis Haller of Woodinville, Washington. Noah's twin sister Arielle, assigned to a different classroom, survived the shooting. He called her his best friend, and with their eight-year-old sister Sophia they were inseparable.
"They were always playing together, they loved to do things together," Mr Haller said. When Noah's mother, a nurse, told him she loved him, he would answer, "Not as much as I love you, Mom."
Mr Haller said Noah loved to read and liked to figure out how things worked mechanically. For his birthday two weeks ago, he got a new Wii games console.
"He was just a really lively, smart kid," Mr Haller said. "He would have become a great man, I think. He would have grown up to be a great dad."
JESSICA REKOS, SIX
"Jessica loved everything about horses," her parents Rich and Krista said in a statement. "She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses, and writing stories about horses."
When she turned 10, they had promised, she could have a horse of her own. For Christmas, she asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
The Rekoses described their daughter as "a creative, beautiful little girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane".
"She spent time writing in her journals, making up stories, and doing 'research' on orca whales - one of her passions after seeing the movie Free Willy last year." Her dream of seeing a real orca was realised in October when she went to SeaWorld.
Jessica, the oldest child in the family, was "our rock", the parents said. "She had an answer for everything, she didn't miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time." A thoughtful planner, she was "our little CEO".
"We cannot imagine our life without her. We are mourning her loss, sharing our beautiful memories we have of her, and trying to help her brother Travis understand why he can't play with his best friend," they said.
"We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are."
LAUREN GABRIELLE ROUSSEAU, 30
Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs, so she was thrilled when she finally realised her goal this autumn to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook.
Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.
"Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten," she said. "We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."
Her mother said she was thrilled to get the job.
"It was the best year of her life," she told the newspaper.
Ms Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see The Hobbit with her boyfriend on Friday and baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterwards. She was born in Danbury and attended Danbury High, college at the University of Connecticut and graduate school at the University of Bridgeport.
She was a lover of music, dance and theatre.
"I'm used to having people die who are older," her mother said, "not the person whose room is up over the kitchen."
MARY SHERLACH, 56
When the shots rang out, school psychologist Mary Sherlach threw herself into the danger.
Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools, said Ms Sherlach and the school's principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives rushing toward him.
Even as Ms Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbour, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator.
Her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times that Ms Sherlach supported the Miami Dolphins American football team, enjoyed visiting the Finger Lakes and relished helping children overcome their problems.
She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance. In a news conference, he told reporters the loss was devastating, but that Ms Sherlach was doing what she loved.
"Mary felt like she was doing God's work," he said, "working with the children."
She beams in snapshots. Her enthusiasm and cheer was evident. She was doing what she loved. And now, Victoria Soto is being called a hero.
Though details of the 27-year-old teacher's death remain vague, her name has been invoked again and again as a portrait of selflessness and humanity among unfathomable evil. Those who knew her said they were not surprised by reports she shielded her first-graders from danger.
"She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about," said a friend, Andrea Crowell. "She wanted to do her best for them, to teach them something new every day."
Photos of Ms Soto show her always with a wide smile, at her college graduation and in mundane daily life.
"You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself," said Mayor John Harkins of Stratford, the town Ms Soto hailed from and where more than 300 people gathered for a memorial service on Saturday night. "That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."
BENJAMIN WHEELER, SIX
Music surrounded Benjamin as he grew up in a household where his mother and father were performers.
They left behind stage careers in New York City when they moved to Newtown with Benjamin and his older brother Nate.
"We knew we wanted a piece of lawn, somewhere quiet, somewhere with good schools," Francine Wheeler told the Newtown Bee in a profile.
She is a music educator and singer-songwriter. Sometimes the musical mother would try out tunes on her own children, with some tunes she made up for Ben as a baby eventually finding their way onto a CD, she told the newspaper.
In writing songs for children, melodies need not be simplified, she said. "I try to make it my mission to always present good music to kids."
Benjamin's father David, a former film and television actor, writes and performs still, according to a profile on the website of the Flagpole Radio Cafe theatre, with which he has performed in Newtown.
The family are members of Trinity Episcopal Church, whose website noted that Nate, also a student at Sandy Hook, was not harmed in Friday's shooting.