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Police find 'good evidence' on motive for Connecticut school massacre

By Jim Fitzgerald and John Christofferson

LAST UPDATED: 03:45 p.m. HST, Dec 15, 2012


NEWTOWN, Conn. » Investigators today worked to understand what led a bright but painfully awkward 20-year-old to slaughter 26 children and adults at a Connecticut elementary school, while townspeople took down Christmas decorations and struggled with how to get through a holiday season that has suddenly become a time of mourning.

The tragedy spurred soul-searching and grief around the globe. Families as far away as Puerto Rico began to plan funerals for victims who still had their baby teeth, world leaders extended condolences, and vigils were held around the U.S.

Amid the sorrow, stories of heroism emerged, including an account of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal who lost her life lunging at the gunman, Adam Lanza, in an attempt to overpower him.

Police shed no light on the motive for the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, though state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found "very good evidence ... that our investigators will be able to use in painting the complete picture, the how and, more importantly, the why." He would not elaborate.

However, another law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators have found no note or manifesto of the sort they have come to expect after murderous rampages such as the Virginia Tech bloodbath in 2007 that left 33 people dead.

The mystery deepened as Newtown education officials said they had found no link between Lanza's mother and the school, contrary to news reports that said she was a teacher there. Investigators said they believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there on Friday.

Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at the home they shared, then drove to the school in her car with at least three of her guns, forced his way inside and opened fire in two classrooms, authorities said. Within minutes, he killed 20 children, six adults and himself.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. H. Wayne Carver today said all the victims at the school were killed up close and shot more than once.

The tragedy plunged Newtown into mourning and added the picturesque New England community of handsome colonial homes, red-brick sidewalks and 27,000 people to the grim map of towns where mass shootings in recent years have periodically reignited the national debate over gun control but led to little change.

Signs in downtown Newtown read, "Hug a teacher today," ''Please pray for Newtown" and "Love will get us through."

"People in my neighborhood are feeling guilty about it being Christmas. They are taking down decorations," said Jeannie Pasacreta, a psychologist who was advising parents struggling with how to talk to their children.

Authorities had yet to release the list of the dead, but in the tightly knit town, nearly everyone seemed to know someone who died.

Among the dead: well-liked Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who town officials say tried to stop the rampage and paid with her life; the school psychologist who probably would have helped survivors grapple with the tragedy; a teacher thrilled to have been hired this year; and a 6-year-old girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada.

Authorities said Lanza had no criminal history; it was not clear whether he had a job. Lanza was believed to have suffered from a personality disorder, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lanza had been diagnosed with Asperger's, a mild form of autism that is often characterized by social awkwardness. People with the disorder are often highly intelligent. While they can become frustrated more easily, there is no evidence of a link between Asperger's and violent behavior, experts say.

The officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation.

Acquaintances describe the former honor student as smart but odd and remote.

"He was very different and very shy and didn't make an effort to interact with anybody" in his 10th-grade English class, said Olivia DeVivo, now a student at the University of Connecticut. Lanza always came to school toting a briefcase and wearing his shirt buttoned all the way up, she said.

"You had yourself a very scared young boy, who was very nervous around people," said Richard Novia, who was the district's head of security and adviser to the school's Tech Club, of which Lanza was a member. He added: "He was a loner."

Novia said Lanza had extreme difficulties relating to fellow students and teachers, as well as a strange bodily condition: "If that boy would've burned himself, he would not have known it or felt it physically."

Lanza would also go through crises that would require his mother to come to school to deal with. Such episodes might involve "total withdrawal from whatever he was supposed to be doing, be it a class, be it sitting and read a book," Novia said.

When people approached Lanza in the hallways, he would press himself against the wall or walk in a different direction, clutching his black case "like an 8-year-old who refuses to give up his teddy bear," said Novia, who now lives in Tennessee.

Even so, Novia said his primary concern about Lanza was that he might become a target for teasing or abuse by his fellow students, not that he might become a threat.

"Somewhere along in the last four years there were significant changes that led to what has happened Friday morning," Novia said. "I could never have foreseen him doing that."

Sandy Hook Elementary will be closed next week — some parents can't even conceive of sending their children back, Board of Education chairwoman Debbie Leidlein said — and officials are considering what to do about the town's other schools.

"Next week is going to be horrible," said the town's legislative council chairman, Jeff Capeci, thinking about the string of funerals the town will face. "Horrible, and the week leading into Christmas."

Asked whether the town would recover, Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library who took cover in a storage room with 18 fourth-graders during the shooting rampage, said: "We have to. We have a lot of children left."

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald, Bridget Murphy, Pat Eaton-Robb and Michael Melia in Newtown; Adam Geller in Southbury, Conn.; and Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn.


Gunman's mother kept trials of home life hidden

Evidence hints at deadlier plan in Connecticut massacre

President speaks to families, nation at Newtown service

Church in Newtown evacuated after phone threat

Isle interfaith ceremony encourages community, focus on mental illness

Staffers hailed as heroes after Connecticut shooting

Victims were filled with love for school

In a town of traditions, grief engulfs holiday joy

New details reveal extent of bloodbath

Unthinkable horror

Children, staff slain with chilling efficiency

Shocking rampage resurrects gun-control debate

Americans, united in horror for a moment

Gunman left few hints about his life or motives

Campuses, law enforcement have emergency plans in place

Mass shooting raises many policy issues

Police find 'good evidence' on motive for Connecticut school massacre

Newtown victims all shot with rifle multiple times, medical examiner says

Names of victims in Connecticut school rampage released

Obama will travel Sunday to Newtown, Conn.

Man kills mother, then 26 at Connecticut grade school

Connecticut shooting suspect was honors student

Kealoha: Police are prepared if similar incident happened here

Hawaii public schools review security; counseling available during break

Abercrombie orders state flags flown at half-staff

Tearful Obama calls for action after shooting

Common element of shootings: semiautomatic weapons

Connecticut school shooting revives gun debate

Virginia governor invokes Va. Tech slayings, offers his prayers

Feds helping in school shooting response

Obama has 'enormous sympathy' for victims' families, spokesman says

Obama speaks to Connecticut governor

20-year-old suspect had ties to school, source says

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Mediocrates wrote:
No more guns. No excuses.
on December 15,2012 | 09:22AM
stingray65 wrote:
Therefore, any pedestrian get ran over by vehicles, they will ban automobiles? People is the one that kill people. They only use guns. Think about it!! If someone had guns, they could have stop that person before shooting more people.
on December 15,2012 | 12:15PM
csdhawaii wrote:
People who constantly try to compare guns to cars are just annoying. That's faulty logic. Cars weren't designed to kill people. Guns were invented solely to kill people. You're comparing apples and oranges. There are many things in this world that can be used as a weapon, but the point is, guns are really good at doing what they were designed to do. They are efficient killing mechanisms. It's so easy and QUICK to pull a trigger and end a life. Countries like Australia, England and Japan have very effective gun control laws and they have very low shooting death rates as a result. The U.S., with our inherent gun culture, is a shining example of the results of what lax gun controls will do to a society. The answer is not making guns easier to get, it's making them harder to get. It's making sure you have regulations in place to at least TRY and ensure that guns are only going to go to those who will use them responsibly. It's ensuring that you can't buy semi-automatics - there is NO reason why non-military citizens need semi-automatics! The only thing that makes sense is COMMON SENSE gun control regulations.
on December 15,2012 | 01:04PM
savan68 wrote:
Thats what Hitler said before he dissarmed the German population.
on December 15,2012 | 10:23PM
f8ldzz wrote:
> Guns were invented solely to kill people. And I thought guns were invented to hunt animals to feed people... Funny you mentioned Japan... Your typical private citizen cannot own firearms; all the criminals do. The same society that invented and created a NIGHTMARE industry called Airsoft and replica firearms...
on December 15,2012 | 10:52PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
guns don't kill people. people with guns kill people.
on December 15,2012 | 03:51PM
akuboatcaptain wrote:
that's right, let's arm all kindergartners!
on December 15,2012 | 03:53PM
808warriorfan wrote:
EXCUSE ME STINGRAY65.....yes if a person used a car to run people over that person would and should be banned from driving.....I agree w/ Mediocrates.....'No more guns. No excuses" How many more kids will have to die because of your mentality ?????
on December 15,2012 | 10:47PM
Slow wrote:
Guns are bad. TV shows that show murder constantly are bad. The last time I ever watch Hawaii 5-0 there was a lengthy machine gun battle at what looked like Ala Moana Center. Is this how we want Hawaii presented? I am glad Hawaii has relatively strict gun laws. Anyone supporting assault weapons, pistols, and other than single shot rifles is a COMPLICIT MURDERER.
on December 15,2012 | 09:59AM
SteveToo wrote:
Just go to be, you shouldn't watch TV. it might make you kill some one.
on December 15,2012 | 08:09PM
Venus1 wrote:
I never watch Hawaii 5-O and am ashamed it is so celebrated !!! The new one is much worse than the old.
on December 15,2012 | 09:56PM
JohhnyB wrote:
Movie ratings ( X, R, PG) are mainly based on nudity and sex, not violence. More fear of exposure to sex than violence.
on December 15,2012 | 10:39AM
aomohoa wrote:
That's not true. a lot of movies that are rated R are full of shooting and violence.
on December 15,2012 | 11:40AM
niceynicey wrote:
I wish these people "speaking on the condition on anonymity" would just keep their mouths shut. They create chaos and are making a circus out of this tragedy. Just let the official spokespeople speak so we can at least try to understand what has happened without having to deal with gossip.
on December 15,2012 | 10:54AM
lowtone123 wrote:
"Lanza shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at the home they shared, then drove to the school in her car with at least three of her guns". Her guns? What!?!?
on December 15,2012 | 11:06AM
control wrote:
These are the kind of people who need to be put away in institutions. Thank you so much neo-cons for taking funding away from the agencies who handle the mentally ill because you think govt shouldn't support such activity.
on December 15,2012 | 12:07PM
stingray65 wrote:
Is guns that really bad? How about some education? Like educating yoursel how to drive a car or motor vehicles? Why guns were used to Bin laden? Why not sling shot? How come that only bad guys can own guns here in Hawaii execpt law enforcement? Most of them that owns guns have priors convictions!! I REST MY CASE.
on December 15,2012 | 12:22PM
localgirl2 wrote:
I'll say it again, guns don't kill people, bad people use them, or knives, or clubs. Guns are in metal. IF everyone had the right to 'pack' there would be less fear. We'd all be on equal footing and no one would be caught off guard. If any teachers had access to guns, this might have been over sooner. Amen to those who are gone now. I grieve with your families. There are sick people out there, all over.
on December 15,2012 | 12:31PM
csdhawaii wrote:
How many people do you think the Sandy Hook perpetrator would have been able to kill with a knife or a club? He used a semi-automatic gun to kill the victims, they all had multiple gunshot wounds. Why did his mother own a semi-automatic? Why is it legal to own a semi-automatic? Your claim that every single person having a gun would make a safer society is ridiculous. Give me one example of a country that is comparable in economic and political stability to the U.S. where that is effective. The U.S has three gun homicides per 100,000 people. That’s four times as many as Switzerland, ten times as many as India, 20 times as many as Australia and England, who all have stringent gun control laws.
on December 15,2012 | 01:14PM
Venus1 wrote:
Guns are for killing!!! No other use!!!
on December 15,2012 | 10:00PM
al_kiqaeda wrote:
Timothy McVeigh killed 19 children, 149 adults and injured over 800 people and didn't use a gun. He had fertilizer and gas. Do you have ANY CLUE how many fully automatic and semi automatic guns are in the hands of criminals? What...do you think if there are stringent gun control laws that the drug dealers, mafioso and street gangs are going to turn their guns in? Do you think gunless criminally insane people are just going to sit on their thumbs? You are so naive...well meaning, but very naive.

The genie is out of the bottle and you are never going to get it to go back in.

on December 16,2012 | 12:17AM
patk wrote:
None of you pro-gun people know how to even form a cohesive argument. You just name-call and spout irrelevant propaganda -- guns don't kill people; fertilizer bombs; are we going to ban cars too; killers will find other means; and on and on and on. How many fertilizer bombs have gone off in the past decade? How many mass murderers have used knives in the past decade? None of these things are relevant to the fact that guns are the most efficient tools for killing. Take that tool away and NO ONE will be able to be able to kill on the spur of the moment again on such a large scale. Pro-gunners always claim to fear the criminals, but the fact is that criminals are not stupid -- If possessing a gun carries a life sentence or death penalty, they would not use nor be caught with one, risk is not worth the reward. Criminals would not run rampant, that is just NRA rhetoric, like all the other garbage the NRA spews.
on December 16,2012 | 09:09PM
patk wrote:
The 'lets arm everybody' is the dumbest argument ever. You people just love your guns and don't care who dies as long as you get to own one. The idea that throwing a bunch of armed civilians into a chaotic situation and having everyone start firing away is just the most ridiculous thing imaginable. What happens when you accidentally shoot a kid, and then the cop shoots you? Oh, but that would never happen, right? Because all you open carry types would always be able to control a chaotic shooting situation... what a joke.
on December 16,2012 | 09:18PM
64hoo wrote:
connecticut has strict gun control it dos'nt matter how yoy try to ban guns or make strict control you will still have the same killings with guns that are going on now. so gun control will not deter all these killings it will go on all the time.
on December 15,2012 | 03:12PM
HD36 wrote:
Plus if we have a catastrophic event and the police aren't around to protect you, a gun is the great equalizer.
on December 15,2012 | 04:09PM
Venus1 wrote:
I say find a more peaceful country!!! There are many!!!
on December 15,2012 | 10:01PM
Poipounder808 wrote:
Mediocrates... It is not that simple, if it was we would have banned guns long ago. This is a mental health issue not a gun control issue. We need to invest more in mental health in this counrty. It is systemic problem with our society. USA leads all other countries in mass killings, think about it.
on December 16,2012 | 07:52PM
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