NEWTOWN -- A divorce, a shattered family dynamic and a disturbed, enigmatic young man with easy access to his mother's extensive gun collection may have sowed the seeds of Friday's massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Adam Lanza, 20, was remembered Saturday as a quiet, "anti-social" student at Newtown High School, which he left before graduation in 2010, to be home-schooled by his mother, Nancy Lanza, whose murder in the home they shared set off the rampage.
Nancy Lanza, 52, was recalled as an educated, striking woman and a loving mother who was proud of Adam and his older brother. Friends say she was optimistic about Adam's cloudy mental outlook and was even planning on following him to a college when he eventually got himself together and was accepted somewhere.
But her perchant for firearms and her family excursions -- taking her two sons target shooting in recent years -- may have come back to haunt this upscale community of 27,000.
Marsha Moscowitz, a former school bus driver, said Saturday that Adam was very shy, reserved and memorable for being a loner in the hustle and bustle of the daily rides to and from school.
"Not every student sticks out," said Moscowitz, 56. "You know how certain kids stick out? He stuck out because he never really talked."
Unlike his older brother Ryan, 24, who graduated from Quinnipiac University and moved to the New York City area for a job with a major accounting firm, Adam stayed in the family home on Yogananda Street, apparently aimless.
John Bergquist, 37, a Newtown native who was friends with Nancy Lanza, said he would see her about once a week at My Place Pizza and Restaurant in a shopping plaza off Church Hill Road, up the hill from Sandy Hook.
"She was very beautiful, with a great sense of style," said Bergquist, who works at the nearby Dodgington Market and Deli, where he last saw her, while selling her a couple of Powerball tickets for the big drawing in late November.
"She had season's tickets to the Red Sox, being from New Hampshire," said Bergquist. "She'd speak lovingly of both Adam and Ryan; but Adam, he was her life. Every time she would speak of Adam, she said he had his "medical" issues, but she would always lend itself in the positive, about how he was making progress, making friends. She would move with him wherever he went to go to college. I thought he was good to go."
Bergquist said that the last time they spoke, he and Nancy joked about giving him a percentage of a winning Powerball ticket. "She was all into investing and we negotiated beforehand what my cut would have been: $5 million," he recalled.
Following their 2009 divorce, Nancy Lanza may have volunteered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, although her role was not clear Saturday as investigators continued to sift through evidence in the school and her Yogananda Street home, about 4.7 miles away.
Moscowitz said she thought Nancy Lanza was a substitute teacher at the school, but there are no such records of her in that job. State Police Lt. Paul Vance told reporters Saturday that there was no connection between Nancy Lanza and the school system.
Vance was cryptic, but said there was enough material being gathered at the school and the home to eventually announce a motive.
Lanza apparently shot and killed his mother, then drove her car to the school that he attended as a youngster. He forced his way in, carrying two handguns and an assault-style rifle, which he used for many of the murders, said Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, the state's chief medical examiner.
In an interview Saturday afternoon, Vance said that Lanza had more weaponry than the three guns, but declined to provide details.
The 2009 divorce decree between Nancy Lanza and her ex-husband Peter Lanza, a General Electric executive who remarried and lives in Stamford, included provisions for alimony. So Nancy Lanza was able to purchase the 3,100-square-foot home in February of 2011, with the appraised value of $707,000, according to the town tax assessor. She was a gun enthusiast who was known to take her sons target shooting.
Moscowitz remembered both Peter and Nancy Lanza, but was more friendly with Nancy, whom she recently encountered at the Big Y Supermarket.
"The mother was quiet, too, and didn't talk much," said Rhonda Cullens, a neighbor of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter's dead mother, Nancy Lanza. "Right now, it's just shock and disbelief. We're totally devastated. It's affecting all of us."
Yogananda Street remained sealed off as a crime scene by yellow police tape and was surrounded by scores of investigator vehicles Saturday morning.
"This is a very nice, quiet neighborhood and the only crime we have to worry about is kids smashing a mailbox," said Cullens, who lived a block away and was a casual acquaintance of Nancy Lanza. "We're a very close-knit, welcoming and warm neighborhood. A lot of people moved here because the school system is so good. It's shocking that anything like this would happen in our community."
Cullens, a stay-at-home mom of two college-aged sons, recalled playing the drinking and dice game Bunco with Lanza and other neighborhood women on a monthly ladies' night out several years ago. They were the wives of executives who commuted to white-collar jobs in New York City or suburban corporate parks at GE, IBM and other large corporations.
"She was very nice and friendly," Cullens said of Lanza. "We had some conversations during the Bunco games. She seemed like the rest of us." Cullens never saw the shooter or Lanza's other son, Ryan, who reportedly lives in New Jersey and was interviewed by authorities shortly after the mass killing at the school.
Cullens never met Lanza's former husband and she did not know that the couple had divorced until long after the split in a neighborhood where the 4,000-square foot homes are often set on large, heavily-treed, secluded lots that create a zone of privacy that neighbors are reluctant to cross. Cullens has lived there since 1993 and she said the Lanza home was built around 1998.
Cullens was still shaken by the horrific, frightening scene that unfolded Friday morning in the small, tight-knit community just moments after Adam Lanza's shooting rampage that killed his mother and 20 young students and six adults dead at the elementary school.
Cullens is an amateur photographer who was taking down a photo exhibit of the local photo club Friday morning at the Municipal Center when the scene turned tragic. News began filtering in that there had been a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Police and troopers began arriving and the building, which houses the Board of Education and Board of First Selectmen, went into lockdown mode. A big-screen TV was tuned to the unfolding tragedy. Some people cried. Others hugged. Everyone searched for answers amid the chaos and a gripping fear that their might be more shooters loose and bent on violence.
"Rhonda, where are your kids?" a friend asked Cullens. She said they had just finished finals week at college and were at the family home.
"Are you sure?" the friend asked. A bolt of fright shot through Cullens. That's when the Municipal Center was locked down, police secured the Board of Education offices and the situation grew even more tense.
Cullens tried to remain calm and she told others around her: "Start praying. There's been a shooting at Sandy Hook."
She described a scene of panic and devastation.
"You could see the shock on everyone's face," she said. "A lot of people were crying."
Cullens' two sons had attended Sandy Hook Elementary School, she was a volunteer there and knows most of the teachers and staff. When she saw her sons' beloved kindergarten teacher on TV, safe and uninjured, she wept tears of joy.
"It was a sense of overwhelming relief," Cullens said. "And then I just kept watching for other people I knew from the school, to see if they were OK."
The Municipal Center was whipsawed by emotions of dread and fear Friday morning.
"All sorts of rumors about maybe another shooter on the loose were floating around," she said. "When we heard police were searching our neighborhood, I heard a guy call his wife and say, `Lock the doors.' "
That's when Cullen called her house and told her two college-aged sons to lock their doors and be alert for any sign of an intruder.
"It was scary, very scary," Cullens said. "We didn't know what was going on. We were terrified there could be more shootings." Cullens said the people at the Municipal Center all had direct connections to teachers, staff, parents and students at the school and they waited grimly to get word if they were alive.
"When I saw a picture of one of the secretaries I dearly loved, I just broke down and hugged other people there," Cullens said. She learned that the secretary, whose name she did not want to disclose, was sick and had not reported to work at the school Friday.
"Otherwise, she probably would have been sitting in the office and might not have ..." she said, as her voice trailed off.
Cullens continued to say silent prayers and was relieved each time she saw a TV image of someone she knew at the school who had survived.
"Thank God they're OK," she repeated to herself. "The whole thing was just heart-wrenching."