US Sandy Hook school massacre: Mum taught Lanza to shoot, Adam killed 12 families

Portraits of victims tell of heartbreak; Who really knew Adam and his mum Nancy

A troubling portrait of Adam Lanza and his mother Nancy is emerging with several media reports, quoting family sources, claiming Nancy herself was “unstable.”

However, most damning were reports that Nancy is the one who taught Adam how to shoot.

Friends and family portrayed Nancy as a paranoid ‘survivalist’ who had been stockpiling food, water and guns who allegedly became obsessed with guns and taught

Adam and his older brother, Ryan, how to shoot, even taking them to local ranges.

The results as we all know now, have shaken the US and the world.

At the very start of their lives, the schoolchildren are remembered for their love of horses, or for the games they couldn't get enough of, or for always saying grace at dinner.

 

Victoria Soto, 27, is shown in this undated handout photo posted on Tumblr in her honor. (REUTERS)

The adult victims found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own.

 

Olivia Engel, 6, in Danbury, Conn. Olivia Engel. (AP)

The gunfire Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School left a toll both unbearable and incalculable: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.

Avielle Richman (REUTERS)

A glimpse of some of those lives cut short:

CHARLOTTE BACON, 6

They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Friday, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear the 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, had lived in Newtown for four or five years, JoAnn's brother John Hagen, of Nisswa, Minnesota, told Newsday.

Click to see gallery of World shares US grief at school massacre

"She was going to go some places in this world," Hagen told the newspaper. "This little girl could light up the room for anyone."

DANIEL BARDEN, 7

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 reported that Mark 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, Mark Barden lists spending time with his family as his favorite thing to do.

OLIVIA ENGEL, 6

Images of Olivia Rose Engel show a happy child, one with a great sense of humor, as her family said in a statement.  There she is, visiting with 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 math 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 soccer player and took art classes, swimming, and dance lessons in ballet and hip hop. A Daisy Girl Scout, she enjoyed musical theater.

"She was a great big sister and was always very patient with her 3 year old brother, Brayden," her family said, recalling that her favorite colors 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 6-year-old who had a lot to look forward to.

Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's 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 6-year-old."

MADELEINE HSU, 6

Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine's house on Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.

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."

Velsmid's daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.

CATHERINE HUBBARD, 6

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."

JESSE LEWIS, 6

Six-year-old Jesse Lewis had hot chocolate with his favorite breakfast sandwich — sausage, egg and cheese — at the neighborhood deli before going to school Friday morning.

Jesse and his parents were regulars at the Misty Vale Deli in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, owner Angel Salazar told The Wall Street Journal.

"He was always friendly; he always liked to talk," Salazar said.

Jesse's family has a collection of animals he enjoyed playing with, and he was learning to ride horseback.

Family friend Barbara McSperrin told the Journal that Jesse was "a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life."

ANA MARQUEZ-GREENE, 6

A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling 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 just 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 9-year-old brother also was at the school but escaped safely.

Elba 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's done.

Jorge 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, 6

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' grandparents, Jack and Kathy Radley, still live in the city, the newspaper reported.

GRACE AUDREY McDONNELL, 7

With broken hearts, the parents of Grace Audrey McDonnell said Sunday they couldn't believe the outpouring of support they've received since the little girl who was the center of their lives died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Lynn and Chris McDonnell called their 7-year-old daughter "the love and light" of their family in a statement released by the little 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.

JACK PINTO, 6

Jack Pinto was a huge New York Giants fan.

New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said he talked to Pinto's family, which is considering burying the 6-year-old boy in Cruz's No. 80 jersey.

Cruz honored Jack Sunday on his cleats, writing on them the words "Jack Pinto, My Hero" and "Rhode IslandP. 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 honor him," Cruz said after the Giant's game with the 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 idolizes 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 1 p.m. on Monday at the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown, followed by burial at the Newtown Village Cemetery.

JESSICA REKOS, 6

"Jessica loved everything about horses," her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos 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 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 realized in October when she went to SeaWorld.

Jessica, first born 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."

BENJAMIN WHEELER, 6

Music surrounded Benjamin Wheeler as he grew up in a household where both 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 that 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 needn't 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 theater, with which he's performed in Newtown.

The family are members of Trinity Episcopal Church, whose website noted that Nate, also a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was not harmed in Friday's shooting.

Nancy and Adam Lanza - secret lives

At the bar, everybody knew her name. Nancy Lanza was the one who, if she heard you were short on cash, regularly offered to pick up the tab at My Place.

Two or three nights a week, Lanza — the mother of the gunman in Connecticut's horrific school massacre — came in for carryout salads, but stayed for Chardonnay and good humor. The divorced mother of two — still smooth-skinned and ash blonde at 52 — was always glad to share talk of her beloved Red Sox, gardening and a growing enthusiasm for target shooting.

But while Lanza spoke proudly about her sons and brought them in for breakfast when they were younger, friends say she held one card very close: home life, especially its trials and setbacks, was off limits.

Now, the secrets Lanza kept are at the center of the questions that envelop this New England town, grieving over the slaughter unleashed by her 20-year-old son Adam, who investigators say killed his mother Friday with one of her own guns before murdering 26 children and teachers at a nearby school.

"Her family life was her family life when we were together. She kept it private. That was her own thing," said Louise Tambascio, who runs the warmly lit pizzeria and bar with her own sons, and became a shopping and dining companion of Nancy Lanza's.

Friends had met Lanza's younger son, who stared down at the floor and didn't speak when she brought him in. They knew he'd switched schools more than once and that she'd tried home schooling him. But while she occasionally expressed concern about his future during evenings at the bar, she never complained about anything at all.

"I heard her as a parent. I always said that I wouldn't want to be in her shoes. But I thought, 'Wow. She holds it well,'" said Tambascio's son, John.

Despite those challenges, the trappings of Lanza's life in Newtown were comfortable. When she and then-husband Peter Lanza moved to the central Connecticut community in 1998 from southern New Hampshire, they bought a brand new 3,100-square-foot (288-sq. meter) colonial set on more than 2 acres (0.8 hectares) in the Bennett's Farm neighborhood. Nancy Lanza had previously worked as a stock broker at John Hancock in Boston and her husband was a successful executive.

When the couple divorced in 2009, he left their spacious home to Nancy Lanza and told her she would never have to work another day in her life, said Marsha Lanza of Illinois the alleged gunman's aunt. The split-up was not acrimonious and Adam spent time with both his mother and father, she said.

Those who knew Nancy Lanza recall her as very generous, often giving money to those she met and doing volunteer work.

When a mutual friend sought a loan from an acquaintance, Jim Leff, and Leff asked for collateral, Lanza intervened.

"Nancy overheard the discussion, and, unblinkingly, told him she'd just write him a check then and there," Leff recalled on his blog in a post after Lanza's death. "While I'm far from the most generous guy in the world, it's not often that I feel stingy. But I learned something from that. I should have just written him the check. She was right."

Mark Tambascio recalled the time Lanza invited him and his brother to attend a Boston Red Sox game, buying them tickets atop the outfield wall known as the Green Monster, and refusing any talk of repayment.

There were moments when she appeared carefree. Neighbors knew her from the monthly gathering of women who rotated between homes for games of the dice game bunko. Lanza enthused about gardening, while poking fun of the fact that few could see the result because her house was set back from the road on a low rise, partly cloaked by trees.

"She used to give me a hard time, you know, because I put out all these Christmas lights, and she said, 'I put out mine, too, but you can't even see them,'" said Rhonda Cullens, who lives one street over.

Lanza also began telling friends that she'd bought guns and had taken up target shooting, John Tambascio said.

All three of the guns that Adam Lanza carried into Sandy Hook Elementary were owned and registered by his mother — a pair of handguns and a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle, his primary weapon.

Investigators said Sunday that Nancy Lanza visited shooting ranges several times and that her son also visited an area range.

Ginger Colburn, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said it's still not clear whether Nancy Lanza brought her son to the range or whether he ever fired a weapon there.

Father's tribute to girl slain in US shooting

Marsha Lanza told the Chicago Sun-Times that Nancy Lanza wanted guns for protection. "She prepared for the worst," Marsha Lanza told the newspaper. "I didn't know that they (the guns) would be used on her."

"Guns were her hobby," Dan Holmes, who got to know Lanza while doing landscaping work for her, told The Washington Post. "She told me she liked the single-mindedness of shooting."

But while trips to shooting ranges gave Lanza an outlet, she returned home to the ever-present challenges of raising a son with intractable problems.

At Newtown High School, Adam Lanza was often having crises that only his mother could defuse.

"He would have an episode, and she'd have to return or come to the high school and deal with it," said Richard Novia, the school district's head of security until 2008, who got to know the family because both Lanza sons joined the school technology club he chartered.

Novia said Adam Lanza would sometimes withdraw completely "from whatever he was supposed to be doing," whether it was sitting in class or reading a book.

Adam Lanza "could take flight, which I think was the big issue, and it wasn't a rebellious or defiant thing," Novia said. "It was withdrawal."

The club gave the boy a place where he could be more at ease and indulge his interest in computers. His anxieties appeared to ease somewhat, but they never disappeared. When people approached him in the hallways, he would press himself against the wall or walk in a different direction, clutching tight to his black briefcase.

Marsha Lanza described Nancy Lanza as a good mother.

"If he had needed consulting, she would have gotten it," Marsha Lanza said. "Nancy wasn't one to deny reality."

But friends and neighbors said Lanza never spoke about the difficulties of raising her son. Mostly she noted how smart he was and that she hoped, even with his problems, that he'd find a way to succeed.

"We never talked about the family," John Tambascio said. "She just came in to have a great time."

ALSO READ:

Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza had ‘altercation’ with school staff the day before



US school massacre: Angels who died... 12 girls, 8 boys, none older than 7
 

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