EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 15, 2012

Killer's family rooted in Merrimack Valley, NH

Staff reports
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The man police say killed 28 people, including 20 children, at a Connecticut school today has family roots in Haverhill and Southern New Hampshire.

Police identified the killer as Adam Lanza, 20, who they said took his own life at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a prosperous community of 27,000 people about 60 miles northeast of New York City. Some reports suggest he might have been a former student of the school.

At least one parent said Lanza’s mother was a substitute teacher there. But her name did not appear on a staff list. And the law enforcement official said investigators were unable to establish any connection so far between her and the school.

His older brother, Ryan Lanza, was taken into custody in New Jersey for questioning. Earlier, a police source mistakenly identified Ryan as the killer. Ryan Lanza had been extremely cooperative and was not under arrest or in custody, but investigators were still searching his computers and phone records. Ryan Lanza told law enforcement he had not been in touch with his brother since about 2010.

The brothers are the sons of Peter Lanza, 54, and Nancy (Champion) Lanza. The parents were married in Kingston, N.H., in 1981, according to town records. Adam Lanza was born in Kingston in 1992.

Peter Lanza was living in Amesbury when he married and his wife was living in Kingston. Peter Lanza formerly lived in Haverhill and Plaistow.

It is not clear when the Lanzas and their two sons moved to Connecticut, though records indicate their property in New Hampshire was sold in 1998.

Adam Lanza was described as an honors student, who lived in a prosperous neighborhood with his mother, a well-liked woman who enjoyed hosting dice games and decorating the house for the holidays.

The 20-year-old may have suffered from a personality disorder, law enforcement officials said. So far, authorities have not spoken publicly of any possible motive. Witnesses said the shooter didn’t utter a word.

A grandmother of the suspect — who is also the mother of Nancy Lanza — was too distraught to speak when reached by phone at her home in Brooksville, Fla.

“I just don’t know, and I can’t make a comment right now,” Dorothy Hanson, 78, said in a shaky voice as she started to cry. She said she hadn’t heard anything official about her daughter and grandsons. She declined to comment further and hung up.

Police say Adam Lanza drove to the school this morning in his mother’s car, entered the school and killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide. Nancy Lanza was found dead at home in Connecticut, bringing the toll to 28.

Several family members still live in the Haverhill area. No one answered the door at the home of an uncle of the killer in Plaistow. When a woman pulled into the driveway, a man yelled from the back, instructing the woman to come inside and not to talk to a reporter outside. Someone then pulled down the shades in the front windows of the house. A short time later, police arrived and asked the reporter to leave.

The shooter’s grandfather, Peter Lanza, who died two years ago at age 83, was born and raised in Haverhill and also lived in Plaistow.

He was an investment broker and insurance salesman with the John Hancock Life Insurance Co. He also played bass in the former Ray Gardella Band.

Peter and Nancy Lanza filed for divorce in 2008, according to court records. Peter Lanza, now lives in Stamford, Conn., and he reportedly works as a tax director for General Electric.

Nancy Lanza is the sister of Kingston Police Officer James Champion. Last night, there were reports that the FBI was in Kingston speaking with the James Champion, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.