Conn. town mourns as police look for answers

By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN and MATT APUZZO Published: December 16, 2012
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Signs around town read, “Hug a teacher today,” “Please pray for Newtown” and “Love will get us through.”

“People in my neighborhood are feeling guilty about it being Christmas. They are taking down decorations,” said Jeannie Pasacreta, a psychologist who was advising parents struggling with how to talk to their children.

The list of the dead was released Saturday, but in the tightly knit town, nearly everyone already seemed to know someone who died.

Among the dead: well-liked Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, who town officials say tried to stop the rampage and paid with her life; school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, who probably would have helped survivors grapple with the tragedy; a teacher thrilled to have been hired this year; and a 6-year-old girl who had just moved to Newtown from Canada.

“Next week is going to be horrible,” said the town's legislative council chairman, Jeff Capeci, thinking about the string of funerals the town will face. “Horrible, and the week leading into Christmas.”

School board chairwoman Debbie Leidlein spent Friday night meeting with parents who lost children and shivered as she recalled those conversations. “They were asking why. They can't wrap their minds around it. Why? What's going on?” she said. “And we just don't have any answers for them.”

Nancy Lanza, who was once a stockbroker for John Hancock in Boston and once lived in Kingston, N.H., was a kind, considerate and loving person, Kingston Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. said.

“She was very involved in the community and very well-respected,” Briggs said.

Authorities said Adam Lanza had no criminal history, and it was not clear whether he had a job. Lanza was believed to have suffered from a personality disorder, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The law enforcement officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the unfolding investigation.

Acquaintances describe the former honor student as smart but odd and remote.

Olivia DeVivo, now a student at the University of Connecticut, recalled that Lanza always came to school toting a briefcase and wearing his shirt buttoned all the way up. “He was very different and very shy and didn't make an effort to interact with anybody” in his 10th-grade English class, she said.

“You had yourself a very scared young boy who was very nervous around people,” said Richard Novia, who was the school district's head of security and adviser to the high school's Tech Club, of which Lanza was a member. He added: “He was a loner.”

Lanza's family was struggling to make sense of what happened and “trying to find whatever answers we can,” his father, Peter Lanza, said in a statement late Saturday that also expressed sympathy for the victims' families.

Sandy Hook Elementary will be closed next week — some parents can't even conceive of sending their children back, Leidlein said — and officials are deciding what to do about the town's other schools.

Asked whether the town would recover, Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library who took cover in a storage room with 18 fourth-graders during the shooting rampage, said: “We have to. We have a lot of children left.”



They were asking why. They can't wrap their minds around it. Why? What's going on? And we just don't have any answers for them.”

Debbie Leidlein,
School board chairwoman, about a meeting with parents who lost children

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