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December 16, 2012

Gunman's mother kept trials of home life hidden

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — At the bar, everybody knew her name.

Nancy Lanza was the one who, if she heard you were short on cash, regularly offered to pick up the tab at My Place.

Two or three nights a week, Lanza — the mother of the gunman in Connecticut’s horrific school massacre — came in for carryout salads, but stayed for Chardonnay and good humor. The divorced mother of two — still smooth-skinned and ash blonde at 52 — clearly didn’t have to work, but was always glad to share talk of her beloved Red Sox, gardening and a growing enthusiasm for target shooting.

But while Lanza spoke proudly about her sons and brought them in for breakfast when they were younger, friends say she held one card very close: home life, especially its trials and setbacks, was off limits.

Now, the secrets Lanza kept are at the center of the questions that envelop this New England town, grieving over the slaughter unleashed by her 20-year-old son Adam, who investigators say killed his mother Friday with one of her own guns before murdering 26 children and teachers at a nearby school.

“Her family life was her family life. She kept it private, when we were together. That was her own thing,” said Louise Tambascio, who runs the warmly lit pizzeria and bar with her own sons, and became a shopping and dining companion of Nancy Lanza’s.

Friends had met Lanza’s younger son, who stared down at the floor and didn’t speak when she brought him in. They knew he’d switched schools more than once and that she’d tried home schooling him. But while she occasionally expressed concern about his future during evenings at the bar, she never complained about anything at all.

“I heard her as a parent. I always said that I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes. But I thought, ‘Wow. She holds it well,’” said Tambascio’s son, John.

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