Report: Newtown shooter showed developmental challenges early in life


A report detailing the background of the violence-obsessed Newtown shooter was released Friday afternoon.

The Office of the Child Advocate said the report focuses on Adam Lanza and how his “personal, educational, mental health and medical trajectory” can help public health systems.

The office typically investigates all child deaths in the state as a means to prevent them from happening in the future.

The report said Adam Lanza presented significant developmental challenges from earliest childhood, including communication difficulties.

At age 5, he did not sleep through the night. He didn’t like to be held, hugged or kissed.

There was no record of any early tragedies or traumas that may have triggered anything.

His difficulties increased after the fourth grade. Anxiety caused him to be “homebound” for a year when he was in eighth grade.

In the meantime, the report said Adam Lanza’s mother, Nancy, told friends she had an autoimmune disorder and that she had “months to live.” She also claimed to have MS, but again, that was not documented by a doctor. She was also fixated with her own health and mortality.

The report said Adam Lanza’s preoccupation with violence was depicted by extremely graphic writings that were largely unadressed by schools and possibly by his parents.

His deterioration ultimately led to his horrendous actions Dec. 14, 2012, the report said. The Yale Child Study Center recommended extensive support that went unheeded, according to the report’s authors. The center appears to be the only entity that knew the depth of Lanza’s troubles.

His parents did not seek mental health treatment until 2008.

Adam Lanza stopped speaking to his father in 2010. He became preoccupied with mass murders, which was encouraged by a cyber-community with whom he was in communication.

There is no evidence Nancy Lanza curtailed his access to guns as he became more despondent. However, a looming prospect of moving from Newtown may have increased Adam Lanza’s anxiety. He may have been worried about losing the sanctuary he had, which could have been an important factor in the shootings.

“This report raises, but cannot definitively answer, the question as to whether better access to effective mental health and educational services would have prevented the tragic events at Sandy Hook,” the authors said.

It listed other mental health issues beyond autism, including anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and suicidal ideation.

Of Lanza’s obsession with violence, the report said “authors [of the report] cannot know the source of such preoccupation and there is no connection in the literature between [Lanza’s] developmental profile and an increased likelihood of violent actions.”

The authors of the report said they cannot definitively answer the question of why Lanza did what he did. They also said it in no way blames parents, educators or mental health professionals for Lanza’s heinous acts. Rather, the report is meant to point out the need to help children who slip through the cracks.

“While we describe the predisposing factors and compounding stresses in [Lanza’s] life, we do not conclude that they add up to an inevitable arc leading to mass murder,” the report said.

Some of the key recommendations included systems that support universal screenings for behavioral health, referring symptomatic children to outside experts, training teachers, administrators and doctors on mental health, putting behavioral therapists in schools and a state audit of current homebound practices.

A mental health expert from Quinnipiac University said Nancy Lanza appeared to hide her son’s issues, especially after he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

“I think there was some sense that she didn’t want it to be an issue that went outside of the family too far,” said Laurie Mutrie of the Quinnipiac School of Health Services. “They knew about it very early on but there were mis-steps and mis-cues.”

Lanza shot his mother and gunned down 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. He then committed suicide.

To read the whole report, click here.

Newtown Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. provided a statement about the report on Friday.

“My first thought after reading this report goes immediately to the victims’ parents and the families who live every day with this horrific tragedy. In addition, my initial reflection includes the hundreds of students, staff, parents, first responders and community members who witnessed and experienced 12/14. When a report like this is brought forward I only wish there was a way to assist those who suffer every day… my heart is with our victims’ parents and all those connected to this tragedy.

“In regards to the report, if there is one school leader, one district, one mental health provider, or one set of parents who reads this work and can prevent such a heinous crime then the value of this chronology has great meaning.”

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