NEW, YORK – In a case full of perplexing questions, the mother of Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza is the mystery woman — but whatever secrets she had about her son were lost forever when he shot her in the head.
Nancy Lanza has been something of a peripheral, and confusing, figure in the massive media coverage of the Newtown shootings.
When the tragedy is discussed, whether by President Barack Obama or ordinary mourners, references are made nearly exclusively to the 20 children and six staff members shot dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. It’s almost as if Nancy Lanza didn’t exist. Yet she was the first to die that Friday, shot in the head by her 20-year-old son — with one of her own guns, and in her own house.
Amid the many rumors and unsubstantiated media reports about the horror, one picture painted of Nancy is of a somewhat kooky figure with a double life, the typical suburban mom on one side, and a closet survivalist hoarding an arsenal of deadly weapons in her posh house on the other.
But there are also signs she was a devoted mother who, like many Americans, happened to love firearms, and who was killed by the very young man she’d devoted her life to helping. What’s sure is that there is little one can be sure about Nancy Lanza.
In the first hours of the shooting, most of the world’s media reported wrongly that she was a teacher at the school. In fact, officials now say she had no connection with the school, nor did her son.
It’s known that she was divorced from an executive at GE Capital, that she lived in a detached house in a well-off neighborhood of Newtown, and that she owned at least the Bushmaster assault rifle and two semiautomatic handguns that Adam would ultimately turn on her — and then on the school.
Why did she have the weapons? Her former sister-in-law, Marsha Lanza, said in U.S. television interviews that Nancy was a “prepper,” someone preparing to defend themselves from social unrest “down the line if the economy collapses.”
But other friends said Nancy was no wild-eyed gun nut, but a gentle and caring woman who happened to love shooting and — in supremely tragic irony — took her shy son Adam to learn on the range.
One friend, Russ Hanoman, insisted that “she used (the guns) very responsibly.”
What seems apparent is that Nancy Lanza cared for her son, whose profile appears to be one of the unusually clever, but socially awkward youngster whom no one ever really got to know before he snapped.
Unlike his 24-year-old brother who has already set up as a tax expert in his father’s footsteps, Adam remained with his mother.
“She eventually wound up home schooling him,” Marsha Lanza said on CNN, describing Adam as a “very, very bright boy.”
Friends of Nancy Lanza also told CNN on Monday said that she was hoping to leave Newtown with him some time next year in order to be near a college that would suit her difficult child.
The friends took to the airwaves to push back against suggestions that Nancy Lanza was suspicious — almost a villain.
One friend, John Bergquist, called her “a lovely woman.” He said “she just made you smile when you walked in the room.”