Connecticut school shooting

Smart and shy Adam Lanza, the lonely schoolboy who turned killer

A student who was 'nice when you knew him' - and whose mother took him target shooting

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 4:58am

Adam Lanza was memorably smart and heartbreakingly shy during his years at Newtown High School in Connecticut.

He'd correct people's Latin in ninth and 10th grades, students who knew him recall. By his second year he got into honours English, tackling Of Mice and Men and Catcher in the Rye. While other youths sported T-shirts and backpacks, Lanza showed up every day in button-down shirts, carrying a briefcase.

"It was almost painful to have a conversation with him, because he felt so uncomfortable," recalls Olivia DeVivo, who sat behind him in English. "I spent so much time in my English class wondering what he was thinking."

On Friday, much of the country was engaging in the same exercise - trying to understand what made Lanza carry out this outrage.

In interviews with neighbours and people who grew up with him, no one claimed to know the tall, gangly young man well. Family members told others he had Asperger's syndrome, a mild autism whose sufferers are often brilliant but socially inept.

He joined the technical club at Newtown High School and was seen at shows and assemblies working on the sound and light equipment.

The tech club would gather at a member's home, hook up their computers into a small network and play games.

"He was actually really smart. But I think he might have had some social disorder or something," said Hannah Basch-Gold, who went to elementary school with Lanza. "He kind of kept to himself, kind of a loner."

Fellow students said nobody made fun of Lanza; they just had a hard time connecting.

"He didn't have any friends, but he was a nice kid if you got to know him," said Kyle Kromberg, now a junior in business administration at Endicott College in Massachusetts who studied Latin with Lanza. "He didn't fit in with the other kids," Kromberg said. "He was very, very shy. He wouldn't look you in the eyes when he talked. He didn't really want to lock eyes with you for very long."

Lanza also shrank from social media, in contrast to many American youths. One rare photo circulating on the Internet shows a scrawny youngster.

No Facebook page has been found so far. In his high school yearbook, for the class of 2010, his photo is missing. "Camera shy," the empty space says, reported The New York Times.

The Lanzas lived for many years in Sandy Hook, where neighbours said they were a quiet family that didn't attract much notice. The mother, Nancy Lanza, "was very nice. I can't say anything very bad about them," said Beth Israel, whose daughter was friends with Adam Lanza in elementary school.

As for Adam, she said, "There was definitely some issues with him."

Nancy Lanza and her husband, Peter, divorced in 2008. Peter Lanza, a vice president at GE Energy Financial Services, recently remarried, and appeared to be caught off guard when reporters approached him near his home in Stamford, Connecticut.

"Is there something I can do for you?" he asked a reporter waiting at his house as he arrived home on Friday, according to The Stamford Advocate. Told that his name had been linked to the school shooting in Newtown, his face darkened suddenly and he rolled up the window and drove into his garage.

Law enforcement sources initially identified Lanza's brother, Ryan, 24, as the gunman, as Adam apparently had with him his brother's identification.

Dan Holmes, owner of a landscaping firm, described Nancy Lanza as an avid gun collector who once showed him a "high-end rifle" that she had purchased.

"She said she would often go target shooting with her kids," he said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, The New York Times