In his Newtown, Connecticut, neighborhood, a woodsy hillside development where dog owners walk together and friends gather for sunsets, 20-year-old Adam Lanza stood apart.
“He wasn’t the most social kid,” said Jim McDade, a homeowner on Yogananda Street, where Nancy Lanza, his neighbor and Adam’s mother, was found dead Dec. 14.
Lanza, after shooting his mother, went on to Sandy Hook Elementary, where he committed the second-worst mass shooting in U.S. history, taking the lives of 20 children, six adults and himself, according to law-enforcement officials.
Little is known of the killer, seen in a picture shown by NBC News staring wide-eyed into a camera beneath brown bangs. He left few traces on the social media ubiquitous among his age group. Acquaintances described him as unknowable.
Lanza couldn’t socialize typically from the time he was young, said Louise Tambascio, owner of My Place, a Newtown pizza restaurant, and a friend of Nancy Lanza’s for 12 years, in an interview.
He had Asperger’s syndrome, she said, a developmental disability that is a form of autism.
She said he was “very smart” and had a high intelligence quotient.
Police initially said the suspect was Adam’s older brother, Ryan Lanza, a resident of Hoboken, New Jersey. The Tambascio family wasn’t fooled.
“We knew it was Adam, because we knew his condition,” Mark Tambascio, Louise’s son, said. Adam “couldn’t deal with regular people,” he said. “He was kind of a sociopath in a way.”
McDade, who said his daughter was a year or two behind Adam Lanza, described Adam as quiet and reserved.
“I’m just numb,” he said.
Lanza was “different” and “definitely a challenge,” his aunt, Marsha Lanza of Crystal Lake, Illinois, said in an interview aired on MSNBC. She didn’t elaborate. She also called him a “nice kid” who had had no brushes with the law.
MSNBC also reported that Nancy Lanza was the owner of the weapons her son used. Authorities were tracing guns found at the mother’s home and the school, said Ginger Colbrun, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Nancy J. Lanza and Peter J. Lanza were divorced in 2009, court records show.
AP identified Peter Lanza as a tax director and vice president for GE Energy Financial Services. A December 7, 2010, obituary on EagleTribune.com for Peter S. Lanza of Plaistow, New Hampshire, listed survivors including Peter J. Lanza and his wife, Shelley Cudiner.
Reporters gathered yesterday outside the couple’s home on Bartina Lane in Stamford, Connecticut, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northeast of Manhattan and an hour’s drive from Newtown. A police officer stepped from a patrol car and yelled, “Get off the property!” when a reporter approached.
In Newtown, the Yogananda Street home of the Lanzas was cordoned off yesterday.
Ralph Strocchia, 17, who lives about a quarter-mile from there, recalled Adam Lanza as a high-school senior riding the school bus when Strocchia was in his first year. The popular kids sat in the rear, Strocchia said, and Lanza wasn’t among them.
“He didn’t talk,” Strocchia said in an interview. He said he had discussed the killings with friends, concluding: “Nobody knew him well.”
Catherine Urso, a Newtown resident and piano teacher, said her son Nicholas went to Newtown High School with Adam Lanza. She said she used to see Adam dressed in a style favored by Goths, a subculture drawn to wearing all black and to music inspired by decay and despair.
Nick Germak lives about two blocks from the Lanzas in a hillside neighborhood with about 200 two-story family homes. Germak’s house is near the top of the hill, and neighbors gather out front to watch the sunset. On weekends, families walk dogs together, he said in an interview yesterday.
“We moved to this remote town in New England, and never expected this to happen,” Germak said.
Ryan Lanza, 24, was questioned by authorities in Hoboken, according to a law enforcement official who asked for anonymity because of the continuing investigation.
Ryan Lanza told officers he hadn’t been in touch with his brother since about 2010, AP said.
No one answered the door yesterday at Ryan Lanza’s apartment on Grand Street. A friend of 18 months, Katie Colaneri, 24, of Hoboken, a reporter for Newark, New Jersey, radio station WBGO, said they often saw one another at parties and get-togethers.
“I remember Ryan telling me that his brother Adam had some troubles, some personality issues,” Colaneri said by phone.
Ryan Lanza is a four-year employee of Ernst & Young LLP in Manhattan’s Times Square, working on tax issues, ABC News reported. Company spokeswoman Amy Call Well confirmed by phone that Lanza is an employee.
People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulty with social, emotional, and communication skills, as well as unusual behaviors and interests, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“It is imperative that as we mourn the victims of this horrific tragedy that commentators and the media avoid drawing inappropriate and unfounded links between autism or other disabilities and violence,” the Autistic Self Advocacy Network said in a statement.