Newtown identifies dead; nation mourns
Posted December 15, 2012
NEWTOWN, Conn. — The first selectman of Newtown, Conn., spoke first Saturday at a press update on the massacre of 26 people, 20 of them children, at an elementary school and shook the nation.
"We are a stong and caring place. We will put our arms around each other," Patricia Llodra told the assembled media before asking for kindness and respect for her neighbors as they deal with their grief.
Local, state and federal investigators were continuing the probe into the attack that left 28 dead — 20 children and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself, who committed suicide.
All the victims at the school were killed up close by multiple rifle shots, a medical examiner said.
Dr. H. Wayne Carver said at a news conference Saturday the deaths are classified as homicides. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has complete autopsies on the bodies of everyone except the shooter and his mother.
All six adults killed at the school were women. Of the 20 children who were shot to death, eight were boys and 12 were girls. All the children were ages 6 or 7.
"Our goal was to get the kids out and available to funeral directors first," Carver said. That process was expected to continue Saturday evening, even as a list of victims was distributed to the media.
"My sensibilities may not be that of the average man," Carver said, noting his three decades as a medical examiner, "but this probably is the worst I have seen."
Asked if he had been moved to tears, Carver said, "Not yet."
While Connecticut state troopers declined to officially identify the killer, investigators were trying to learn more about Adam Lanza, 20, whom authorities said shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, drove to the school in her car with at least three of her guns, and opened fire in two classrooms around 9:30 a.m. Friday.
THE VICTIMS: The chief medical examiner said all the victims at the school were shot with a rifle, at least some of them up close, and all of them apparently were shot more than once. More Info Connecticut School Shooting Victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting
All six adults killed at the school were women. Of the 20 children, eight were boys and 12 were girls. All the children were 6 or 7 years old.
Among the dead: popular Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who town officials say tried to stop the rampage and paid with her life; school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 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.
THE GUNMAN: Adam Lanza, 20, was described as a bright but painfully awkward student who seemed to have no close friends. In high school, he was active in the technology club. The club adviser remembered that he had "some disabilities" and seemed not to feel pain like the other students. That meant Lanza required special supervision when using soldering tools, for instance. He also had an occasional "episode" in which he seemed to withdraw completely from his surroundings, the adviser said.
Authorities said Lanza had no criminal history, and it was unclear whether he had a job.
Lanza committed suicide after his killing spree.
THE PARENTS: One of the parents who lost a child in the attack spoke publicly about his loss.
Robbie Parker fought back tears and struggled to catch his breath as he described his 6-year-old daughter, Emilie, as a little girl who loved to draw. He also reserved surprisingly kind words for the gunman, saying he was not mad and offering sympathy for the gunman's family.
To the man's family, he said, "I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you."
In a statement released late Saturday, the father of the gunman said his family is struggling to make sense of what happened.
Peter Lanza said the family "is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy."
THE INVESTIGATION: Police shed no new light on what triggered the shooting, but state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found "very good evidence" that they expected to use "in painting the complete picture." He would not elaborate.
Newtown education officials said they had found no link between Adam Lanza's mother, who was killed before the school massacre, and the school, contrary to news reports that said she was a teacher there. Investigators believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook Elementary many years ago, but they had no explanation for why he went there Friday.
THE SCENE: Some residents of Newtown, a picturesque New England community, began taking down Christmas decorations in the wake of the slayings. Signs around town read, "Hug a teacher today," ''Please pray for Newtown" and "Love will get us through."
When the list of the victims was released, nearly everyone already seemed to know someone who had died.
THE GUNS: Federal authorities visited local gun ranges but found no evidence that the gunman trained for the attack or was an active member of the recreational gun community.
Investigators also have interviewed gun dealers trying to determine whether there was any training or other behavior that precipitated the attack.
The HISTORY: The Newtown massacre is the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history and one of the deadliest mass shootings around the world. A gunman at Virginia Tech University killed 33, including himself, in 2007. Only Virginia Tech and the mass killings of 77 in Norway last year had greater death tolls across the world over the past 20 years.