EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 15, 2012

Nancy Champion Lanza remembered as a bubbly, caring person by those who knew her

Champion mother, siblings offer Newtown families condolences

By Douglas Moser
dmoser@eagletribune.com

---- — KINGSTON, N.H. — Nancy Champion Lanza went to the same elementary school, Daniel J. Bakie Elementary, where her mother worked as a nurse.

Nancy’s children Ryan and Adam would have been in line to go there, too. But then Nancy and Peter Lanza, a Haverhill, Mass., native, moved with their children from Kingston in 1998, when the boys were 10 and 6.

Nancy Lanza, 52, a 1978 graduate of Sanborn Regional High School, was one of 27 killed in the Newtown, Conn., massacre Friday. Her younger son Adam, 20, is believed to be the shooter who killed her, 20 young children, six adults and himself.

“On behalf of Nancy’s mother and siblings, we reach out to the community of Newtown and express our heartfelt sorrow for the incomprehensible and profound loss of innocence that has affected so many,” said Rockingham County Sheriff Michael Downing, reading a statement from the Champion family here last night.

In this tiny hamlet, the personal connections to the tragic shootings in Newtown are everywhere. Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr., knew Nancy from school, he said. Her brother, James Champion, was a longtime police officer in Kingston, where he earned the rank of captain and retired in November 2011, Briggs said. Many alumni from the Sanborn class of 1978 still live in the area, either here or in Plaistow.

The Champions’ mother, Dorothy, was a nurse at Bakie and in Exeter for 30 years. While the Lanzas lived in Kingston, Briggs said Nancy Lanza was a stay at home mother who took care of the boys, but worked at least part time for John Hancock as a stock broker. They lived on a six-acre Champion family plot, which Nancy acquired from her mother in 1987, less than a mile from the common and Town Hall.

“She was a wonderful, caring, bubbly person,” Briggs said of Nancy Lanza. “Heart of gold.”

Briggs said he last saw Lanza at James Champion’s retirement party. He had not seen her boys since they left town in 1998, though. James Champion, taking reporters’ questions during a phone call with Briggs last night, said he had seen his sister last summer at a wedding in Maine, and even had maintained at least some contact with her former husband Peter Lanza.

Peter and Nancy Lanza divorced in 2008.

Briggs and Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams said the FBI had been in contact with the Champion family and the Kingston Police. None of the Champions were questioned, and Briggs said no property was searched. Briggs said agents were “just in conversation” with them, and with him and Downing, to get background and family information for the investigation.

Briggs said he could not recall sports or hobbies Nancy had participated in, and did not know whether she or Peter Lanza were gun collectors or members of any local gun clubs while they lived here.

The New York Times reported last night that Nancy Lanza had built a collection of guns, even boasting to friends and taking her sons to a local shooting range in the Newtown area.

Authorities believe the three guns Adam Lanza took to Sandy Hook Friday morning — a Glock, a Sig Sauer, both handguns, and a semiautomatic Bushmaster .223 M4 carbine — belonged to his mother, and were legally acquired and registered. Investigators believe she also may have had two hunting rifles.

Friends and neighbors told the New York Times Lanza was sociable and active in the community, and liked craft beers, jazz and landscaping. She was generous to strangers, but also high-strung, they said, as if she were holding herself together.

She often went to a local restaurant and music spot, My Place, where at beer tastings on Tuesday evenings, she often talked about her gun collection, acquaintance Dan Holmes, owner of a landscaping company in Newtown, told the Times

Reporting from the New York Times was used in this article.

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