Town swamped in sorrow as victims identified, families speak out
Published Saturday, December 15, 2012 7:23AM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 16, 2012 9:29AM EST
The small town of Newtown, Conn., was covered in a shadow of grief Saturday as the 26 victims of a horrific mass shooting at a local elementary school were identified.
Flags were lowered to half-staff across the town and memorials to the slain students and staff from Sandy Hook Elementary school were mounted.
Relatives of the woman fatally shot by her son before he killed those 26 people at the school also released a statement, saying they share the grief of the Newtown community and the nation.
The family would not speculate on what might have triggered the shootings, however state police Lt. Paul Vance said investigators had found "very good evidence ... that our investigators will be able to use in painting the complete picture, the how and, more importantly, the why."
The state’s chief medical examiner, Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, said all the victims died from gunshot wounds with some being shot multiple times and at close range. He described the injuries sustained by the victims as “devastating” and “the worst I’ve seen.”
Police released the names of the victims late Saturday afternoon. All of the 20 students who were shot were six or seven years old. Six adult staff members were also killed at the school.
Carver said he believes “everybody was hit more than once.” He also said to his knowledge, the students were in grade one.
“They were wearing cute kids’ stuff,” he said. “It’s the kind of stuff you’d send your kids or grandkids out the door to first grade in.”
He said that photos were taken of the victims and presented to the grieving families to help with the identification process.
The post-mortem examinations of the gunman and his mother will start Sunday, said Carver.
U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend an interfaith vigil Sunday in Newtown. He will also meet with some of the families of the victims.
Earlier in the day police investigating the mass shooting said they have uncovered "good evidence" they hope will shed some light on what motivated the gunman's rampage that left a total of 28 people dead.
Lt. Paul Vance told reporters authorities were continuing to piece together the events surrounding Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 26 people died.
The gunman, identified as 20-year-old Adam Lanza, then turned the gun on himself. His mother, Nancy Lanza, was also found dead.
However, Vance declined to confirm Lanza as the shooter, saying a medical examiner would be identifying the shooter and victims at a later time.
What we know about the Connecticut shootings:
The toll: In total 28 people died. The victims include 20 students, six school staff members, the gunman’s mother and the gunman.
The child victims at the school: Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7, Olivia Engel, 6, Josephine Gay, 7, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6, Dylan Hockley, 6, Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, Catherine V. Hubbard, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, Jesse Lewis, 6, James Mattioli, 6, Grace McDonnell, 7, Emilie Parker, 6, Jack Pinto, 6, Noah Pozner, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, Jessica Rekos, 6, Avielle Richman, 6, Benjamin Wheeler, 6 and Allison N. Wyatt, 6.
The adult victims at the school: Rachel Davino, 29, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Lauren Russeau, 29, Mary Sherlach, 56 and Victoria Soto, 27.
The suspect: Although authorities have not officially identified the suspect, several media reports named 20-year-old Adam Lanza as the gunman. Former classmates remember Lanza as a quiet, smart student though a bit of a loner. A law enforcement official said Lanza may have had a personality disorder. He came from a wealthy area and his parents divorced in 2008.
The suspect’s family: Friends and neighbours describe Lanza’s mother, Nancy, 52, as well-liked and a nurturing parent. Those close to her say that she often hosted dice games at her home. She was divorced from her husband, Peter Lanza in 2008. Friends say she was a gun enthusiast who went target shooting with her children. She owned four legally registered guns.
Lanza’s father, Peter Lanza, is a tax director at General Electric who lives in Stamford Connecticut.
Lanza’s older brother, Ryan Lanza, 24, lives in New Jersey and works in Manhattan. Following the shooting Ryan was initially identified as the suspect and was questioned by police. It was later clarified that he is not a suspect.
The town: Newtown, Conn., is a 300-year-old picturesque New England town of 27,000. It is located in one of the wealthiest counties in the country. Friday’s shooting, the second-deadliest mass shooting in the country, has traumatized this quiet community. There has only been one murder in Newtown in the last 10 years.
Police still investigating crime scenes
The school, located in Newtown, as well as the secondary crime scene, a private residence where a woman reported to be Nancy Lanza was found dead, produced “some very good evidence in this investigation, that our investigators will be able to use in hopefully painting the complete picture as to how and more importantly why, this occurred,” Vance told reporters.
Vance declined to name the evidence, saying it’s “part and parcel” of the ongoing investigation.
While there is speculation that the “evidence” could be a manifesto or suicide note, another law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that investigators had not found anything of that nature.
The connection between the Lanzas and Sandy Hook Elementary is still unclear. It’s known that Adam Lanza attended Newtown High School, where he was an honour roll student, but it’s not known if he ever attended the elementary school.
Some parents have told various media outlets that Nancy Lanza was a substitute teacher or teaching aide at the school, but her name did not appear on a staff list and investigators have not been able to establish any connection between her and the school.
The gunman's aunt, Marsha Lanza, said her nephew was raised by kind, nurturing parents who divorced in 2009. She said they would not have hesitated to seek mental help for their son if he needed it.
"Nancy wasn't one to deny reality," Marsha Lanza told AP.
On Saturday, detectives continued to investigate inside the school. The perimeter around the school is also considered a crime scene, as are the vehicles in the parking lot, Vance said. He added that forensic work probably would not be complete for another day or two.
“It’s going to be a long, painstaking process,” he said.
Vance also said the weaponry found at the scene is being investigated. A law enforcement not authorized to speak to reporters told AP that two pistols, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, and a .223-calibre Bushmaster rifle were found in the school while a fourth weapon was found outside the school.
Vance confirmed the shooter forced his way into the secured school. He said rescue crews broke several windows in an attempt to gain access and entered “to save as many students and faculty as they could.”
He pleaded with media to respect the grieving families, who have asked for privacy.
“As you know this is an extremely heartbreaking, difficult thing for them to endure,” Vance said. “Please abide by their request.”
A crisis intervention team has been established to assist the grieving community.
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