Disturbing Details Of Nancy Lanza's 2012 Murder

On December 14, 2012, an armed 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (per Britannica). Within minutes, he had shot and killed 26 people. Horrifically, Insider states that a majority of his victims were children between the ages of 6 and 7. Six school employees were also killed. According to Statista, this makes Sandy Hook the second deadliest school shooting in American history, with the first being the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre. A motive for Lanza's actions has never been uncovered. Nevertheless, The New Yorker notes that it is known that he was a student at Sandy Hook until the 6th grade.

Per CNN, the massacre lasted only 11 minutes before Adam died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His first victim, however, was not at the school. Before arriving at Sandy Hook, Adam shot and killed his 52-year-old mother, Nancy Lanza. He then took her car and drove to the school. Fox61 reported that Nancy and her son lived together. In the months before the shooting, she was concerned for her son's well-being. A friend told the FBI (via Fox61), "Nancy was not afraid of Adam, but was afraid FOR him." The New Yorker explains that Peter Lanza, Adam's father and Nancy's ex-husband, believes that his ex-wife simply did not realize that her son was on the verge of violence.

She was a devoted mother

Those who knew Nancy Lanza have described her as a loving mother and an unselfish person (via NPR). Per The Washington Post, she was raised in New Hampshire and had a picturesque childhood. In 1981, she married Peter Lanza. In 1988, she gave birth to their first child Ryan Lanza. CNN states that they welcomed their second son Adam in 1992. Nancy had worked as a stockbroker in Boston before becoming a stay-at-home mom after Adam's birth. On the surface, the Lanzas were a typical wealthy family from New England. However, early on, they began to notice that their son Adam was demonstrating odd behaviors.

According to The New Yorker, Adam had speech problems and was adverse to physical touch. Additionally, he was unable to show much emotion. In 1998, the Lanzas moved from New Hampshire to Newtown, Connecticut (per PBS). In emails to her friends, Nancy noted that Adam was thriving in this new environment and his new school, Sandy Hook. However, this did not last long. By this point, Adam had been diagnosed with sensory integration disorder. Eventually, he was also diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and was having trouble at school.

As a result, PBS reports that Nancy enrolled her son in alternative schools and teaching programs to accommodate her son's needs. Martha Lanza, a relative, later told The Washington Post, "She [Nancy] wasn't afraid to be there for her kids." In 2009, Nancy and Peter divorced.

She struggled to raise her son

Biography states that after the couple split, Peter Lanza moved to Stamford, Connecticut. Nancy Lanza and Adam Lanza (seen above) stayed at their Newtown Home (per NPR). Their oldest son, Ryan Lanza, had moved to New York. The Washington Post writes that Nancy and Peter agreed to joint custody of Adam, who was then 16. By all accounts, the pair had ended things on good terms and remained friends. In 2010, Adam chose to not have a relationship with his father (per PBS). Despite this, Nancy still communicated with her ex-husband about their son (via The New Yorker). In several emails written to Peter, Nancy details that Adam was on a downward spiral.

Per The New Yorker, he was unable to function like an average person and had no aspirations. CBS News reports that one person told the FBI that Adam became a "recluse" and anti-social. Although Nancy tried to minimize her son's problems to others, Peter has said that he believes she was too proud to ask for help. Meanwhile, Nancy was trying to figure out how she could possibly help her son. John Bergquist, Nancy's friend, later told the Hartford Courant, "Her life revolved around caring for Adam." As he became more withdrawn, Nancy told a friend (per The New Yorker), "I'm worried I'm losing him."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

She introduced her son to guns

According to The New Yorker, Adam Lanza first showed an interest in guns while he was still in school. However, The Washington Post explains that it wasn't until after the divorce that Nancy Lanza began to humor her son's fascination. Nancy's friend, Russell Hanoman, stated (via NPR) that she did this to "instill ... responsibility within him." Hanoman added, "He loved being careful with them. He made it a source of pride." According to The Washington Post, Nancy began collecting guns and taking Adam to "multiple shooting ranges." It seems that Nancy also had a love for target shooting as she openly discussed her hobby with friends.

Although her intention was positive, Richard Novia, a former Newtown school employee who knew Adam, criticized Lanza's actions in the Hartford Courant. He called it a "serious mistake" and noted that "if you have a child in the home with mental disorders, or learning disabilities, to have involved him with guns in the first place would be bad." Even so, it seems that Nancy never thought her son was capable of hurting her. Between 2010 and 2012, she purchased four guns. Peter Lanza told The New Yorker, "She slept with her bedroom door unlocked, and she kept guns in the house, which she would not have done if she were frightened."

Adam Lanza murdered his mother in her sleep

On the day that Adam Lanza committed the Sandy Hook shooting, he crept into his mother's bedroom and murdered her as she slept (via Hartford Courant). Per CNN, Nancy Lanza was shot in head four times. In an interview with The New Yorker, Peter Lanza stated that he believed that Adam would have killed him if he still lived in the house. He explained, "The reason he shot Nancy four times was one for each of us: one for Nancy; one for him; one for Ryan; one for me."

Prior to her murder, the Connecticut Post writes that Nancy had traveled on her own to New Hampshire to spend time at a luxury resort. Nancy told a friend that Adam was back at home by himself. She explained that this trip was an "experiment" to see how he would do on his own. PBS reports that Nancy enjoyed traveling but knew that Adam had to become more autonomous in order for her to be able to take more trips. Only a day after she returned home, Adam senselessly killed her and 26 others. 

Family member Marsha Lanza told The Washington Post, "She was involved. That's why, when I heard that he shot her, that floored me. That just didn't make sense to me because your mom did all this stuff for you. What the hell were you thinking? Why did you take your revenge out on her? What did she do?."

Nancy Lanza is a forgotten victim

The New Yorker explains that many believe that Nancy Lanza aided her son in committing the Sandy Hook shooting. She was, after all, the one who bought guns and took Adam Lanza to the shooting range (via NPR). Friends, per CNN, said that all Nancy wanted was to have her son "fit in." It seems that her biggest mistake was indulging Adam's every whim instead of providing him with adequate mental health treatment. Insider reports that there was only one makeshift memorial for Nancy in Newtown. The townspeople felt conflicted; was she at fault for Sandy Hook, or was she simply another victim?

An opinion piece on USA Today writes that Nancy became a scapegoat for the families of Adam's victims. They blamed her for Adam having access to weapons and for knowing how to use them. Five years after Sandy Hook, The News-Times noted that the families of the victims killed in the shooting were beginning to forgive Nancy for her role, active or not, in the massacre. Michele Gay, whose 7-year-old daughter died in the shooting, found "forgiveness incredibly liberating." Despite this, Nancy's friend John Bergquist stated, "You can still say, 'There are things we can do differently next time,' but she is entitled to be a victim, and she is entitled to her humanity."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.