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Connecticut shooter hit hard by parents' divorce, called withdrawn but not 'threatening'

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By The Washington Post
Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, 10:10 p.m.
 

Adam Lanza was his name.

Adam P. Lanza, 20, obscure in life, infamous in death.

A really rambunctious kid, as one former neighbor in Newtown, Conn., recalled him, adding that he was on medications. He was a son of an accountant and a teacher.

He will long be remembered.

On Friday morning, police say, he shot and killed his mother in their home. And then, carrying firearms and an abundance of ammunition, he drove to Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School and started shooting. By the time he turned one of the guns on himself, police say, he had killed 20 children, many of them kindergartners, and six more adults.

Adam Peter Lanza — a new addition to a dreadful list, the roster of mass murderers who targeted students: Seung Hui Cho at Virginia Tech (32 dead), Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold at Columbine High in Colorado (13 dead), Charles Robert IV at a little Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania (five dead). The litany of massacres goes on.

As scores of investigators worked to piece together what happened at the school and why, the barest details of Lanza's life began to emerge.

His parents, Nancy and Peter Lanza, separated about a decade ago, and his mother, a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook, remained in the family's home with her sons, Adam and Ryan Lanza, according Ryan Kraft, now 25, who was a neighbor.

The separation hit the children hard, Kraft recalled.

When Nancy Lanza would go out to dinner with friends, she sometimes relied on Kraft to watch Adam Lanza, who was too boisterous for Ryan Lanza to manage.

“He would have tantrums,” Kraft said. “They were much more than the average kid.”

Yet he was not prone to violence, Kraft said.

“The kids seemed really depressed” by the breakup, Kraft said of the Lanza brothers.

Ryan Lanza, 24, now lives in Hoboken, N.J. He was questioned by police, but law enforcement officials said he is not suspected of having anything to do with the shootings.

For several hours, authorities and the news media misidentified the shooter as Ryan Lanza, who, like his father, is an accountant, a law enforcement official said.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a friend of Ryan Lanza's as saying that Lanza works for Ernst & Young. “He ⅛is⅜ a little shy, but very nice and sweet,” the friend, Katie Colaneri, 24, of Hoboken, told the Journal.

Nancy Lanza put the best face possible on her domestic troubles, the former neighbor said.

“Nancy was really pleasant,” Kraft said. “She would come by the house and have a glass of wine with my mom.”

The divorce was finalized in 2009, according to court records.

Beth Israel, who lived for a time on the same street as the Lanzas, recalled Adam Lanza as withdrawn but not threatening.

“Overall, I would just call him a socially awkward kid, I don't know, shy and quiet. Didn't really look you in the eye,” Israel said on Friday. “Just kind of a weird kid, maybe. I can't tell you any specific incidents why ⅛I thought so.”

A law enforcement official —who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is far from finished — said Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother in her home, then drove in her car to the school where she worked.

He had two semi-automatic pistols and a .223-caliber rifle, law enforcement officials said. He apparently used only the handguns, which were later found in the school. The rifle was found in the vehicle.

Peter Lanza, a vice president and tax specialist at GE Energy Financial Services, has remarried and lives in Stamford, Conn., according to The Stamford Advocate. When he arrived home on Friday, the newspaper reported, he appeared “surprised and horrified” and declined to comment on the mass shooting.

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