Deadly Rampage at Newtown Elementary School

12.18.12

Adam Lanza Destroyed His Hard Drive Before Attack

Before his rampage, the Newtown shooter smashed his home computer’s hard drive, a law-enforcement source tells Christine Pelisek—evidence that the shooting spree was planned in advance.

Before 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot his mother multiple times and then drove to a nearby elementary school, killing 26 more victims, he destroyed his computer hard drive, a law-enforcement sources tells The Daily Beast.

“It was pretty bad,” the source said of the smashed hard drive. “If he destroyed the computer, that means there are things on there that would concern him. It is going to be a while before they can decipher the information.”

The FBI’s computer-analysis response team is still trying to put the pieces of the hard drive back together, said the law-enforcement source, who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, “The kid knew what he was doing,” the source said. “This was a planned event. There is no question about it.”

According to the Hartford Courant, Lanza had used the computer to play a violent videogame in which life-like characters participate in bloody battle scenes. At this point, there’s no telling what else he did with it. 

Eight boys and 12 girls—all between the ages of 6 and 7—and six adult school employees, including the principal, were killed. Most of them were shot multiple times, some of them at close range as they sat in their classrooms. Lanza was found dead of a self-inflicted wound from a gun owned by his 52-year-old mother, Nancy. He had four weapons and “hundreds of bullets.”

Before law-enforcement officers entered the large colonial home Lanza shared with his mother, they used a robot to search for explosive devices. “There was no indication of booby traps,” said the source.

What police did find in the house on Yogananda Street were multiple weapons owned by Nancy Lanza. Those weapons, said Connecticut State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance, are an important focus of their attention.

Video screenshot

So is Lanza’s relationship with his mother, a former stockbroker at John Hancock in Boston, who told her friend Mark Tambascio a week and a half before her death that she planned to move to Washington state with Adam so he could attend a four-year college for special-needs students there.

“She told me she was moving,” said Tambascio, one of the owners of My Place, a local restaurant and pub. “She had been thinking about it for one year at least. She was always trying to find ways to help his condition. She did everything in her power to help him. She was always concerned. She wanted him to have a regular life. She wanted to make sure he could be on his own.”

Tambascio said that Nancy didn’t really like to talk about Adam’s problems. “She was very private about it. She was such a strong woman, but I think it saddened her. She didn’t want to burden anyone. When she came here she wanted a refuge. She would come in and have a drink or two. She wanted to get things off her mind.”

Tambascio said he met Nancy 15 years ago, shortly after she moved to Newtown with her executive husband and two sons. Initially, Nancy stopped by to pick up take-out for her family. But over the years, he said, she began to pop by for lunch, dinner, and sometimes a late-night drink.

At first, bar patrons thought the 52-year-old—immaculately dressed, an athletic blonde with shoulder-length hair—was snobby. But as soon as you got to talking with her, they say, the New Hampshire farm-girl came out. She had a busy social life with friends and was incredibly generous. On one occasion she gave a restaurant employee $500 for a AIDS bike race she was participating in. On another occasion she gave a needy family some money on the sly because she didn’t want them to know where the money came from.

‘This was a planned event.’

But most of the time she was taking care of Adam, helping to homeschool him as well as get his driver’s license a few years ago. “It was a big step for her,” said Tambascio. “He had his own car. She was very excited about it.”

Jerry Nicholls, an operating-room nurse, said that Nancy became one of the bar’s eccentric and bright regulars, a group that included musicians, brew masters, electricians, and a national beer judge. “She would come in and never drank too much,” he said. “She had her own charisma and strength of personality. If she was with a friend she would always say: ‘This is Jerry. He was there when I woke up from my surgery. Jerry was there, and I felt safe.’” Jerry said she had plastic surgery on her face within the last couple of years.

Tambascio said Adam and his older brother, Ryan, would occasionally accompany Nancy when she dropped by for take-out. Adam, he said, was “fidgety and hard to interact with.” “She told me he had Asperger’s syndrome. He moved a lot. Ryan seemed to love his brother. Nancy said he took care of him.”

Ryan, he said, worked as a busboy for the restaurant for a year and a half while he was in high school. “His mom asked us if we had an opening, and we hired him.”

When Ryan went away to college, Tambascio said, Nancy didn’t stop by the restaurant as much. “Once Ryan was out of the house, we didn’t see her as much anymore. I don’t think Adam liked to be alone.”

Nancy, meanwhile, was wealthy from her divorce—her ex-husband had agreed to pay $10,000 a month in alimony payments, increasing the sum to a minimum of $12,450 up until 2023. But she was “very private about her life” and didn’t appear to date anyone seriously.

Tambascio said Nancy picked up the gun hobby in the last few years after a retired New York police officer took her to a shooting range. “She actually liked shooting a gun,” he said, and she started to take Adam to the shooting range “because she wanted to find something to do with him to bond. He loved it. I heard he was very conscious of gun safety.”